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Idling Engines

British gallery owner Mark Peaker makes an art out of Hong Kong’s idling engine law enforcement


Avid letter writer to the Post tells why he shows no mercy when it comes to drivers who leave their engines running

Former banker and now art gallery owner Mark Peaker attributes the success of both his careers to his jovial nature.

But there’s one group of people to whom the British-born Hongkonger shows no mercy – the city’s perennial engine idlers.

“It’s my biggest bugbear about Hong Kong – these belligerent drivers who clog up the roads and won’t turn their engines off,” Peaker, who owns gallery 3812 in Sai Ying Pun, says.

“It has caused a lot of ill will in Hong Kong but it would be such an easy problem to fix.”

As an avid letter writer to the South China Morning Post, “Mark Peaker from The Peak” is noted for his regular commentary and complaints on discourteous road etiquette, which remains unchanged despite a bill being introduced in 2011 penalising those who idle their engines.

A community man who has called the city home for more than 12 years, Peaker canvasses almost daily for better enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance over the habit that is not only a nuisance to those navigating the tight streets, but also makes Hong Kong smog levels all the worse.

“When you first arrive in Hong Kong, you’re not part of the community and you don’t really get invested in this sort of thing but then you adapt to your environment,” he said.


Peaker said he struggles to understand why enforcement on the matter is so limp. He has acquired a certain degree of notoriety among officers for his querying their enforcement tactics, adding with an air of exasperation that they do not seem to approach the matter as assertively as they ought to.

“I saw an officer being yelled at by a driver who was idling his engine, and I went up to him and said, ‘Why can’t you get this guy to turn his engine off?’,” he says, describing how the officer gave the shrill response: “Because he won’t listen to me.”

Born in Cambridge to a diplomat father and stay-at-home mother, Peaker was brought up in well-to-do west London. He moved to Hong Kong at a time when he felt his career as a banker was coming to a close.

A man of good taste and a natural networker, he found himself drawn to the art world, deciding more than seven years ago to set up a gallery of contemporary art alongside his partner, art aficionado Calvin Hoi.

He says what drew him to the city – the diversity, the hustle and bustle, the cityscapes and energy – are qualities that have him still very much in love with Hong Kong, despite its problems.

“Hong Kong has always fascinated me, I’m an urban dweller at heart – and this place has a lot to offer everyone,” he says, describing how he also enjoys hosting ¬acting classes for students as part of his community work with NGO Shakespeare for all, alongside sketching workshops in a separate pro bono project.

“There are so many positives, it’s such a vibrant place, and sometimes we lose sight of that,” he adds.

Idling law has had ‘zero effect’ on pollution level

Peaker is not alone in his crusade against the scourge of idling engines across Hong Kong. Since 2006, 8,337 complaints about idling engines have been made to the Environmental Protection Department, the body tasked with penalising offending drivers.

Despite this, only 201 fines have been issued by the department since the Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance came into operation in 2011. The number of fines amounts to just 4.4 per cent of complaints made since that year.

And at HK$320 a pop, many consider the fines to be ineffective deterrents.

“The fine is ridiculous, and the belligerent attitude of the drivers means a lot of the time police don’t even enforce the rules,” Peaker said.

But he thinks the Hongkongers who deserve the blame for the lines of chugging engines across the city are the well-to-do who require their drivers to wait endlessly for them to appear.

“They have this self-belief that they’re so important they’re above the law,” Peaker said, describing how on several occasions he had seen drivers ignore inspectors and police officers asking them to turn off their engines.

“I have emailed Central Police Station, CEOs, [my local council representative] Joseph Chan, as well as directly emailing companies whose drivers abuse the law and numerous schools where [students’] drivers park illegally, idling their engines waiting to pick up on their morning runs.”

He describes an email flow that spans years.

Environmental campaigner at Clear the Air, James Middleton, agrees that the ordinance can hardly be described as a success. He said it had had “zero” effect on pollution levels.
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Illegal Idling is Hong Kong’s least-enforced minor infraction, data show

Environmentalists have called on local authorities to step up action against drivers who idle their engines while stopped, after a South China Morning Post analysis of government data showed the practice attracted the least amount of law enforcement attention among an array of minor offences.

Out of Hong Kong’s 680,000 licensed, non-government-owned vehicles excluding buses, authorities last year issued 46 fixed penalty notices after traffic wardens timed 1,127 vehicles.

Between December 2011, when the ban came into effect, and November 2013, officers timed 3,070 vehicles and issued 86 fixed penalty notices.

Motorists are prosecuted if they allow their engines to idle for more than three minutes after receiving a warning.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the number of exclusions – including hot weather and queuing taxis – might have explained the difficulty traffic wardens faced in enforcing the ban. Still, he said more focus would be needed in order to tackle air pollution.

“The law exists in name rather than in substance,” said Chan, who is vice-chairman of the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel. “The half-hearted approach could be a result of the ordinance being a rather unpopular one, especially for the transport sector and the wealthier class of society.”

Clean Air Network campaign manager Patrick Fung Kin-wai said the curb on illegally idled engines played a “secondary role” in improving air quality.

“More awareness is needed; more law enforcement is needed too,” he said.

The Post also found that police issued tickets to about 1.06 million drivers last year for illegal parking. It was a slight rise over the 1.02 million tickets handed out for the offence in 2013.

Some 20,015 pedestrians were fined for road safety offences last year, including jaywalking, ignoring the directions of a police officer and taking too long to cross the road. That was down from the 23,600 pedestrians fined in 2013.

Smoking in unauthorised places was another common minor offence, with more than 8,000 people fined last year.

Source URL (modified on May 19th 2015, 2:45am):

SCMP: Idling engine ban has failed to clear the air

from Ernest Kao of the SCMP:

A law banning idling engines has come under fire for having only a minimal impact on improving air quality, nearly two years after it was introduced.

Lawmakers said the Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance had not stopped idling engines, which caused pollution and were a nuisance to pedestrians.

Environment chief Wong Kam-sing defended the ban, which came into effect in December 2011, saying it had reduced the number of complaints about roadside discomfort caused by hot exhaust fumes and noise pollution.

Environment bureau statistics show that in the past two years, 3,070 idling vehicles were timed but only 86 fines were issued. Most were handed out to drivers of non-franchised buses and private vehicles.

The number of idling engine complaints had dropped 40 per cent, from 1,802 last year to about 1,000 this year. (SCMP)


Cap 611 Laws of HKG the Amazing Grace Ordinance

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Hong Kong’s derisory enforcement of engine idling law

Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

We can report that those whose job it is to chase down breaches of the engine idling law have shown a marked increase in their activity. Readers will recall the law came into effect on December 15, 2011. Between then and the end of May 2012, a total of zero fixed-penalty tickets were issued.

This is not because engine idling suddenly came to a grinding halt, something that even the most casual observer could easily discern. However, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) used to say then that it was in educative mode and drivers had proved co-operative when asked to comply with the law.

Nevertheless, since then, there has been a marked tightening-up, and between May 2012 and the end of last month, no fewer than 47 fixed-penalty tickets were issued to those that broke this law. That works out at an average of 3.4 fixed-penalty tickets a month.

So we can safely say that traffic wardens and the EPD haven’t exactly been cracking the whip on this one. You could quite easily issue 47 tickets in a morning just by wandering around Central and visiting Bank Street, Ice House Street and Wellington Street to start with.

This has surely been one of the most useless laws ever enacted in Hong Kong and has been a complete waste of the Legislative Council’s time. A fitting testimony to the reign of the former secretary for the environment, Edward Yau Tang-wah.

Kowloon City, Yau Tsim Mong top list of idling-engine black spots


Submitted by admin on Oct 25th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Jennifer Ngo

The area, and Yau Tsim Mong, have the most streets where drivers park with engines running

Ninety-two streets have been identified as black spots for vehicles with idling engines, with Kowloon City and Yau Tsim Mong the districts most affected, environment officials say.

Many of these streets are near schools, tourist spots and bays for loading and unloading goods.

The Environment Bureau would “request traffic wardens to pay more attention to [the] black spots during normal patrol duty”, bureau chief Wong Kam-sing told legislators yesterday.

The bureau would also conduct publicity and enforcement activities at those places, he said.

The Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance was introduced last December to reduce roadside pollution, the city’s biggest air pollution problem.

But its implementation has triggered public complaints that the Environmental Protection Department is too lenient in enforcing the law.

In the 10 months since the law took effect, only three drivers have been charged a fixed penalty of HK$320 for keeping the engines of their parked vehicles running for more than the allowed limit of three minutes.

The ban was also not enforced for 40 days during the recent summer because of overly hot or wet weather, in accordance with weather-related exemptions.

In the meantime, roadside air pollution hit a peak of 212 in Central – the highest on record in the city with the exception of a sandstorm in 2010.

Kowloon City was the district with the most black spots, with 15 streets, followed by Yau Tsim Mong with 12, officials said.

A street was identified as a black spot if it received more than one complaint of an idling engine within three months, a government spokesman said.

The department did not provide a breakdown of the exact locations of the streets listed.

Yesterday afternoon, cars and school buses lined the Causeway Bay area outside St Paul’s Convent School on Leighton Road, one of the black spots.

While the two school buses had their engines turned off, some of the private cars had their motors left running as the drivers waited to pick up their young charges from school.

Private cars, some with engines idling, were parked or double-parked in side streets leading off Leighton Road – including Sunning and Hoi Ping roads.

Wong said traffic wardens and environmental protection inspectors had timed 806 vehicles across the city and held 340 publicity activities to raise awareness of the issue. He said more drivers now switched off their engines while their vehicle were parked, but admitted in some cases this was because law enforcement officers were timing them.


Kowloon City

Yau Tsim Mong

idling engine

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 25th 2012, 5:10am):

Idle enforcers won’t stop idling engines


Submitted by admin on Oct 25th 2012, 12:00am


Alex Lo

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 police, 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!


Air Pollution

Idling engine ban


Law Enforcement

More on this:

Government resolve on cleaner air must not waver [1]

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 25th 2012, 4:55am):


Idling engine law proving ineffective


Letters to the Editor, September 19, 2012

Submitted by admin on Sep 19th 2012, 12:00am


Idling engine law proving ineffective

Hong Kong’s idling engine legislation is perplexing as it is copied (according to an Environmental Protection Department official I spoke to) from the traffic and boat idling ordinance of Toronto, Canada.

It is bewildering because, in 2011, Toronto was officially ranked No 1 city in the world in quality of living and clean air, and Hong Kong was voted one of the most polluted.

It is inexplicable that Hong Kong copies an environmental programme from a city that bears no resemblance to the problems the SAR suffers from.

Interestingly, the three minutes of permitted idling per 60 minutes was reduced in Toronto to just one minute and enforced regardless of the weather.

Hong Kong continues with its three minutes per hour and should the hot weather signal be in effect, then idling for as long as you like is perfectly legal.

So on days when pollutants should be reduced, our Environmental Protection Department allows empty coaches to idle and trucks to bellow noxious fumes into the air so a driver can sleep in his airconditioned cabin.

It is a travesty of a law designed to appease the very people guilty of polluting our air; our government continues to treat the health of Hong Kong citizens as unimportant and this is simply not good enough.

Mark Peaker, The Peak

Roadside pollution is getting worse

I refer to the letter by Edward Rossiter (“Government failing to curb pollution”, September 11).

Air pollution is getting worse and it poses a serious threat to our health.

Current government policies have been shown to be inadequate and ineffective. I am concerned that there has been an increase in the number of private cars but nothing has been done to curb deteriorating roadside pollution.

For those working in Kwun Tong, walking along the pavement for just 10 minutes is absolute torture as the traffic flow is heavy, especially in the rush hour.

Conditions are made worse by urban renewal projects. There are construction sites in operation day and night with dumper trucks coming in and out; the health of Kwun Tong residents is in jeopardy.

The air pollution index does not come up to international standards.

Why is a world city still using an outdated index, especially when it is supposed to be an important yardstick and is relevant to the health of Hong Kong citizens?

We have to face the fact that pollution is really getting out of control. It is high time the government considered curbing roadside pollution. Yet, the effectiveness of banning idling engines is in doubt.

It is not uncommon to find minibuses or taxis still with their engines running while they are waiting for passengers.

For the sake of the health of Kwun Tong residents, the government should do more to tackle the pollution they face at pavement level, like putting more resources into roadside greening and subsiding minibuses to use environmentally friendly engines.

Leung Kit-yan, Diamond Hill


Idling engine legislation

roadside pollution

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 19th 2012, 6:29am):

Idling ban rendered useless for 40 days as pollution levels soar


Submitted by admin on Sep 15th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

The idling engine ban was rendered useless for two-thirds of July and August because the weather was too hot or too wet.

Drivers were allowed to ignore it on a total of 40 days during the two-month period under the controversial legislation’s weather-related exemptions.

These were days on which the Observatory issued the very hot weather warning – of 33 degrees Celsius or above – or rainstorm warnings.

It meant drivers were allowed to keep their engines running to power the air conditioning. But the exemption days – 21 in July and 19 in August – came as roadside air pollution hit record levels.

The air pollution index reached 212 in Central on August 2, the highest level yet recorded in the city with the exception of a sandstorm in 2010.

One green activist said it showed the idling ban, implemented last December, was no more than a “paper tiger”.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung said: “It is like it never existed.” She said the ineffectiveness of the ban had been expected. For that reason, trying to amend it to “give it some teeth” might not be worthwhile.

“It would be much better and more effective to focus on the sources of the air pollution, like the heavy trucks running in the streets,” she said.

Despite that, the first two penalty tickets were issued for breaches of the ban last month.

They were handed to the drivers of a coach and a light van, who were fined HK$450 each.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said the coach driver was caught by inspectors with his engine idling in Tung Chung on August 14 while two days later, the van driver received a ticket in Yuen Long.

All drivers are permitted to keep their engines running, while parked for three minutes every hour. But the ban is lifted for the whole of any day on which one of the weather warnings is issued.

The exemptions were included in the watered-down legislation that was passed on March 5 last year.

Exemptions were also applied to taxi stands, the first two minibuses at stands, private school buses and coaches or buses with at least one passenger.

Further exemptions were added after the bill was passed for vehicles of welfare agencies and Salvation Army centres for senior citizens.

Green activists called for a better pollution warning system after two days of “life-threatening” levels at the start of last month. Roadside readings in Central hovered at or above 190 for 20 hours from August 1.



Air Pollution

Idling ban

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 15th 2012, 5:23am):

Idling engine law just a smokescreen


Your editorial noted the absence of prosecutions for idling engines and perhaps there never will be any (“Idling engine law has all but stalled”, June 19).

Last week I took a photo of a minibus which was parked outside the K. Wah Centre in North Point. The picture showed the driver enjoying a well earned rest in air-conditioned comfort with the engine running and no one at the wheel.

I suppose it is fruitless to expect prosecutions since it is the long-established inalienable right of every indigenous male driver to sleep in his vehicle, this right having been established over countless generations and anyone trying to remove this right is obviously a troublemaker.

There is a saying that the law is an ass, but who is the real ass?

Is it the government that devised the law, or the legislators who enacted it?

Or perhaps it is those who believed that the government was doing something about air pollution, when, in fact, it was only blowing a smokescreen over its inertia.

Robert Wilson, Discovery Bay