An idle mind is a dirty mind
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to enforce an edict banning motor vehicles from idling for more than three minutes (“Legal limit on vehicles idling set to be enforced,” Aug. 10, page 2). After reading the story in the Taipei Times, I couldn’t help but notice the many absurdities surrounding this new mandate.
The agency openly admits that “Emissions from motor vehicles are the main source of air contaminants in urban areas ... and have a severe impact on air quality and public health.” Yet, at the same time, the agency is condoning three full minutes of engine idling (unless it’s 30°C during the hot summer, during which time vehicles may idle for as long as they want to allow for air-conditioning).
Idling any longer than 15 seconds is excessive and unnecessary. Sadly, the EPA’s new mandate could be -interpreted as saying that two minutes and forty-five seconds of idling is totally acceptable. To me, this is the same as saying that it’s permissible to litter, as long as you don’t dump a whole bucket of trash on the sidewalk.
Another problem I have with the three-minute rule, which I doubt the agency has the money or manpower to enforce, is that it is aimed at the wrong target. The problem in Taipei is not vehicles that idle for three minutes or more in front of places such as convenience stores, but rather the massive hordes of scooters that idle for more than 90 seconds, multiple times, during their daily commute.
There are intersections in Taipei where, at a two-minute red light, the cumulative idling time of the waiting scooters and motorcycles is more than 150 minutes (50 times the legal limit for a single vehicle). In my own round-trip commute, I spend on average 15 minutes (five times the legal limit for a single vehicle) at red lights.
It is time the EPA made a widespread public service announcement. Rather than impose a NT$1,500 to NT$60,000 fine for these minuscule violators, why not do more to tell commuters how it is actually in their best interests to stop idling? Wouldn’t it clean Taipei’s street-corner air much faster if people were educated about idling and how this is related to their health and wallets, instead of threatening them with fines?
Apparently, the agency seems unwilling to take this path, which is why Taipei has volunteer groups, including Idle-Free Taipei. This populist anti-pollution cause even has its own civilian superhero, Captain Air. With or without the help of the EPA or some “higher power,” these groups are committed to sending a message to motorists that idling is an unacceptable, dirty and extremely unhealthy habit that needs to stop immediately.
Regarding the recent controversies in Taiwan and abroad over the death penalty, let me propose something: If a person who is executed is eventually found innocent, then the prosecutors who successfully got that person executed should also be sentenced to death.
An execution is irreversible: If prosecutors think they are better than God in determining who should live or die, then they need to be held accountable for their decisions.
If such an accountability system is established, then naturally no more executions will ever occur.
Allen Timothy Chang
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