Idling cars not the answer in cold weather


— The season’s frigid temperatures that hit last week are making it harder to start your car and taking longer for it to warm up, but the Steamboat Sustainable Business Consortium is trying to promote the message among Routt County residents that idling vehicles isn’t the answer.

The Sustainable Business Consortium was formed in 2006 as a program that works primarily on local business sustainability in areas like energy, finances and community involvement.

In 2012, as part of the consortium’s community involvement project it sponsors annual, a “Spare the Air” no-idling campaign was started.

Lyn Halliday, the consortium’s chief executive officer, said a collective decision was made to continue the no-idling program into 2013. Halliday said about 80 signs are posted around town at local businesses, educating passersby on the effects of car idling over long periods of time.

“A lot of the focus is on young children who are very susceptible to exhaust,” Halliday said. “It can be from a car or bus, especially if the children have asthma or a respiratory ailment.”

Halliday said the consortium’s campaign isn’t necessarily a “don’t-do-this-or-else” kind of program, but rather a fact-based guide to making smarter decisions when it comes to warming up vehicles in Steamboat’s cold winter weather.

She said dozens of local businesses have hopped on board by posting the campaign’s no-idling logo at their property, and even Colorado Mountain College sustainability students have gotten involved.

“There’s been a fair amount of positive response,” Halliday said.

The campaign offers advice that includes turning off vehicles that are parked or not moving for more than 10 seconds and warming up an engine by driving the vehicle gently rather than letting it sit idling for a prolonged period.

“Frequent restarts are no longer hard on a car’s engine and battery,” the campaign’s fact sheet, produced by the Environmental Defense Fund, says. “The added wear is much less costly than the cost of fuel saved.”

How much pricier can it be? The consortium is contends that up to $650 a year can be saved - between 1/5 and 7/10 of a gallon per idle hour - depending on fuel prices, car type and idling habits.

But there is also a judgment-call angle to the no-idling campaign, Halliday said, especially when weather drops to critical levels, like Steamboaters have been experiencing this week and last.

“If it’s 30-below zero, use some common sense,” she said. “If you have infants, toddlers or elderly people, there are times with exceptions. The point is to educate people, get them more aware and get them to think about it.”

Steamboat Springs Patrol Sergeant John McCartin said Colorado does have a state law prohibiting drivers from leaving their cars idling unattended with their keys in the ignition. The law, however, is subject only to idling on public property, and remote-started cars are exempt from punishment, McCartin said.

McCartin believes the basis of the law is to guard against vehicle theft rather than to protect the environment.

"As far as I’m aware, it (the law) was designed because people were doing it - leaving their car running with the key (in the ignition) — and people would see it and then go steal the car," McCartin said. "I think that is the reason it was created, but I could definitely see another side of it — the environmental part.”

McCartin also noted that Denver police issued a notice to area residents less than a week ago that "puffing" is both illegal and makes vehicles susceptible to theft, especially in the cold winter months.

But Halliday said the consortium’s no-idling campaign is meant simply to give Routt County residents the tools to make the best decisions possible and maybe save some cash in the process.

“Some just do it by habit, and some people leave their cars abandoned and idling," Halliday said. "We want it to just be kind of an awareness piece.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll


bill schurman 3 years, 4 months ago

Dear non-idlers: get a life. We live in Siberia. Go back to Boulder.


Garrett Branson 3 years, 4 months ago

Bill, I'm sure whatever you do for work is also done in Arizona.

But can somebody explain why the police leave their patrol cars to idle, although it appears that there is a law against it? I parked next to an idling police SUV this week at the supermarket and it was still going when I came back.


Thomss Steele 3 years, 4 months ago

I am always amazed at the time, money and effort people put into needless endeavors. Please people get a hobby... We really don't need 60 more signs around town placed by the morality police. Go do something really useful with your time. Life is short.


jerry carlton 3 years, 4 months ago

10 seconds? Better start turning your car off every time you stop at a traffic light. That should help traffic flow.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

"...$650 a year can be saved - between 1/5 and 7/10 of a gallon per idle hour"

So even on a vehicle that burns 7/10ths a gallon per hour that would mean over two hours of idling every day of the year including summer! The $650 number would require 8 hours of idling every winter day.

It was a complete lack of fact checking to put such a ridiculous number in the article.

So how many gallons of gas were consumed to produce these signs and then install them? Maybe they should spare the air by not making signs and driving around installing signs.


Cresean Sterne 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree with everyone here. This whole issue started in cities where peoples cars were being stolen outside their home in the early hours while waiting for their car to warm up. First of all if you were to start up your car in this frigid weather and just taks off, your vehicle would probably make a not so plesant unhealthy noise and your widows would instantly fog up freezing your winshield from the inside. A vehicle needs to warm up a bit in these temperatures untill the engine is idling somewhat normal and some form of heat starts to circulate through it. School buss's, construction equipment, semi trucks, police cars. Not to mention the city buss and shuttle buss's that idle at the transit center. The list goes on of vehicles that idle in the morning while warming up. IMO this has become one of the dumbest things a city should allocate money for to reinforce.



rhys jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Ten minutes to warm up the motor and cab -- okay. A half hour or more -- not okay. All hour-and-a-half you're at lunch, like I saw in North Dakota -- okay -- in North Dakota.


Joey Bowman 3 years, 4 months ago

Who needs Jay Leno,,Just read the comments in the Steamboat today!!!


rhys jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Hey, I'm a chameleon, can change colors on the spot, ever the hypocrite, ready to jump on any bandwagon, and eager to stir the pot.

I'll probably being playing a different tune, if the State ever deigns to restore my driving privileges, and I dig my truck out of where it is. Now that I've got a functional heater core, and a big cold cab, I might rethink 90 degrees.

I was amused, however, to read this rationale -- “Frequent restarts are no longer hard on a car’s engine and battery,” -- what a crock, like starter motors are any better now -- and at any rate, I've got the old kind, it's missing occasionally already, just like the old one started doing. Don't want to stress that thing out, right? See? Chameleon, and I'm not even there yet.

'Til then this is all sour grapes and moot besides, pour moi.


Brian Kotowski 3 years, 4 months ago

My aging Sidekick will be idled every morning before I drive off. Those who disapprove can call their mommies and have a good cry.


john bailey 3 years, 4 months ago

xit , Rhys I can't see ya. were'd ya go? when ya'll pay for my gas i'll listen to ya , till then shut it. oh and remember kiddies the sign says NO JAYWALKING. ah the californication of NW Colorado, ~;0)


rhys jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Hey, I already waffled, what more do you want from me? Okay, I will point out that the regs only apply on public property, even then with remote-start exemptions, what you do on your own property is your own damn business, this is (still) America, and it all blows to North Dakota anyway.

When is that slow boat leaving? The crew is ready!! Aruba!!


Bret Marx 3 years, 4 months ago

Ahhh Jerry, you beat me to it! Sorry SSBC, I don't drive a 2014 Audi that will warm up in 30 seconds. Takes a little bit longer in the '95 Subaru. I'll make sure I turn off my diesel delivery truck, unnessisarily, 1,000 times throught out the day though as to not aggravate the kids asthma. Sure my company will love that. I don't want to see any busses idling at strawberry park middle school anymore either. The bus will start and proceed once all the kiddos are on from now on!


mark hartless 3 years, 4 months ago


There is not one aspect of your lives which these people do not intend to ultimately control.

What WILL you guys do when these little would-be Napoleans decide ski lifts, mt bikes, micro brews and dogs are also unnecessary?

There are lots of heavy trucks now that shut down automatically. The drivers thoughts on the matter are no longer relevant.


mark hartless 3 years, 4 months ago

We are reaching that Orwellian point at which "That which is not forbidden is cumpulsory"

Your trucks (and subarus) will shut down automatically.

You will NOT get plastic grocery bags.

You WILL cover your load at the landfill... even if it's a single 5 ton block of concrete.

You WILL use ethanol even if it drains aquifers.

You WILL use wind power even if it kills birds and costs you grocery money.

You WILL get health insurance whether you want it or not.

And the majority will cheer all the way... til they lose THEIR favorite freedoms.


"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

-M. Niemoller


Kevin Nerney 3 years, 4 months ago

Garrett, not to side with cops ('cause lord knows in this rat hole, crime ridden criminal infested,city of Steamboat they are over worked) but leaving the car running is a safety thing. Should all hell break loose and a mad get away is required the last thing a cop needs is to not have his car start.(danger danger will robinson). Just like you won't find a cop car with a dome light activated when the door opens. safety first. As a side note (and I may have told this story before) back in the day I was a cop in NYC, and one April 1st. these two cops were having trouble with either their starter or battery in their patrol car so when they went on a call the left it running and locked the door and used a second key to open the car. Well being a pretty good car thief at the time I slim jimmed the door open and my partner and I moved the car around the corner. Well they thought it was stolen and we had a good laugh,got on the radio and said April Fools. (The things we did for 24 k a year).


mark hartless 3 years, 4 months ago

What's the deal with what? My punctuation? My ... ? Or my < P >? Or was it something I said?


mark hartless 3 years, 4 months ago

I use it to break into new paragraphs. I guess I'm mostly computer ignorant. This is how I was told/taught. Is there some other way to get'r done? These < P >'s don't show up in my text (so long as I don't use spaces between the characters), either in the prepared script or when I review my submissions.

If you can tell me another way to get this site to allow me to split things into new paragraphs I'm all ears.

Whenever I hit "enter" or some other means to drop down and begin a new paragraph it sets it up as I intend in the preview, but then when I check what I've submitted it has all been compiled as one big paragraph-the spacing gets deleted.

What else can I do?


rhys jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Mark -- Welcome to my world, where everything is so VARIABLE. I'll bet the Pilot's parsers love YOU. You are inadvertently throwing HTML markup at them, and they don't know what to do with it.

The < p > you use (spaces inserted so it'd show, no time for escapes) does signal a new paragraph, which should properly be terminated with < /p > (minus spaces). Otherwise you're just stacking them up, or nesting them, never terminating any of them until you click Post comment. Bad form; the parser must compensate. (parser "parses" or analyzes what you submit) Do it right, and you'll get your blank line.

This line should show by itself, though I strung it behind the preceding text, and before the following.

If you want a blank line between sentences or paragraphs, just hit <Enter> twice -- (had to do some escaping there, dang it) it won't show in the preview below, but it will in the posted comment. No markup necessary. I dunno why it changed the font just now, just weird. Ain't got time to fiddle with it -- there's a mess with my name on it.

JJ Southard 3 years, 4 months ago

Not sure why Mark is the only one struggling with this. < P > Seems a little parsey.


rhys jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Call me old-fashioned, but there are some things I just won't try, as they are too risky: Heroin, gay sex, and capital letters in my HTML tags. The Internet Police are watching, if your computer doesn't just burst into flames. Don't say I didn't warn you.


john bailey 3 years, 4 months ago

as any qualified electrician will tell you, don't let the smoke out...~:0) ah hula hula hula......


mark hartless 3 years, 4 months ago

Frankly JJ, I think that, in the immortal words of Cartman, "This whole thing is just a plot againts me, isn't it?"


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