James Tien

Motor-mouths steer clear of diversions to rev up on road pollution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 1997, 12:00am

Demonstrations in the Gallery? Men escorted away to police stations? Angry crowds outside the Legislative Council? What is this to us over in Sketchwriter's Corner? We will not be distracted from the serious business of legislating for an apolitical future of wealth, stability and, above all, decorum.

Government officials and provisional legislators suspending laws which, only last month, some of their number had rushed through the now sadly defunct elected Legco? What are such trifles compared with the matters which occupy our pen? For high-handedness and constitutional impropriety we care not a jot, at least not if we think anyone might consider our interest subversive.

Our mocking tone down here at the parish pump may cause offence, but we trust it won't offend anyone important. Until, that is, Government decides to file flowerbeds and bus fares under the heading 'Executive-led', in which case we will, of course, reconsider our position.

We are convinced there is no danger of that happening for the foreseeable future in the matter of idling motors.

This is an issue on which there have been many letters to this newspaper.

Disgusted of Tai Tam, Name and Address Supplied and even Outraged of Mid-Levels have all written to complain that drivers of buses, minibuses and school nanny-vans regularly leave engines running while parked, causing noisome fumes to percolate through their nostrils at bus stops.

James Tien, who has probably never waited at a bus stop in his life, but doubtless insists his chauffeur gun the motor whenever he parks, asked Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands Bowen Leung if the drivers of public conveyances could not be asked to do the same.

The Government, Mr Leung assured him, was working on it.

It did want to do a bit of promotion to encourage drivers to switch off their motors when stationary.

But most had to leave the engines running to operate their air-conditioners and, besides, how could you tell if they'd been parked for three minutes or five? But before we could get ourselves arrested by yelling from the gallery that, in Germany, they even ask drivers to switch off while waiting at traffic lights, and worry about the total level of fumes in the environment, Howard Young had asked an even more pertinent question.

Wasn't it true, he asked, that stationary motors were less of a problem than moving ones? Yes, replied Mr Leung, delighted to be reminded of his previous lecture on the subject.

Fumes from idling motors only affected those standing nearby, especially at bus stops and in school yards, but moving vehicles produced far more exhaust and disturbed people along their whole route.

Still, smelly bus stops didn't give a good impression. He was against them.