We are shocked and outraged! There are, according to environment officials, 92 black spots for idling engines across the city. What that really means is that drivers simply idle everywhere, paying no attention to the idling ban and its HK$320 fine. Well, we all know that, because traffic wardens and environmental protection inspectors rarely enforce the ban. So it's absurd for the government even to bother doing the survey.
First, a confession: I drive every day and I have idled my engine on more than a few occasions. Only three drivers have been fined for idling more than the three-minute limit since the law came into effect last December and I am not one of them. In those times when agents of the law walked by, not a single one ever stopped and timed me.
However, I have been repeatedly ticketed, over many years, for failing to add money to parking meters that had expired just minutes before. From this, I can only conclude the priority of officers is to penalise overtime parking, an offence that actually harms no one, to the neglect of engine-idling, which does harm to everyone's health.
Environment chief Wong Kam-sing told lawmakers yesterday that 806 vehicles were timed, presumably not from the time when they stopped and kept the engines on, but when an officer stepped next to the car to alert the driver. This amounts to a warning, and of course, few drivers would end up getting fined that way.
There were also 40 days during this summer when enforcement was formally suspended because the weather was too hot or too wet. This is allowed under the law, thanks to myriad exemptions written into it.
Seriously, has the Environmental Protection Department been subsumed under Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks? For this paper tiger of a law, we have to thank Wong's predecessor, Edward Yau Tang-wah, the current director of the Chief Executive's Office.
The lack of enforcement, compared to how readily officers penalise parking offences, indicates it's official policy. I can assure you I would turn off my engine unfailingly if there was a good chance I'd be fined. Let's not be intimidated by angry truckers, delivery van drivers and their trade leaders. Enforce the law, please!
Correction: Police do not enforce the idling engine ban, only traffic wardens and environmental protection inspectors. A mistaken reference to the police in the original article has been dropped.