Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Someone approached me recently with a concern of cars idling in Ketchum. Her distress was this:

“Hi there, came across your email on the SVO blog. I am not a blogger, but did join the site. Am new to Wood River Valley. since you seem big into blogging, has anyone blogged about how bizarre and disturbing it is that so many people leave their cars running at the curb while they go about their business in Ketchum. I wrote a LTE in the Express about this… but wonder if it can / ought to be blogged about. Thoughts?

And on that subject, why do so many people drive in Ketchum? It’s so unnecessary! - KT”

I replied, "Welcome to the valley. I think that’s an interesting subject you bring up, and could work well for a SVO discussion.”

A few random thoughts:

In recent years, local authorities have posted several dozen no-idling signs in well-thought out places around the valley. Hailey has a lot of these, as do most schools. I wonder though, how local law enforcement works with this. Has anybody been ticketed or warned for idling their vehicle in one of these zones? What about Prius owners? Maybe the accepted wisdom is that the signs, along with a healthy dose of passerby’s scornful-looks, should be enough to do the trick. (Sometimes finger-pointers utilize Miscellany 2 in the Express classifieds in similar technique)

It sounds like you’re focusing on cases, where people actually leave their cars running, unattended. That’s definitely worse and I have heard of somebody ticketed for this. Frequent naïve attitudes about how crime is practically non-existent here don’t help either. A few years ago, somebody stole a Ketchum man’s car on April Fools Day. Although he had left his keys in the car, he presumed that his friends had played a practical joke, until that afternoon, when he realized it really was stolen.

It would be interesting to get a mechanic’s opinion on idling cars and at what point you should turn your engine off for brief stops. In some cases there could be reasonable explanations as to why the vehicle is idling. Other times, it baffles me when I see someone running their engine, while blocking a gas pump they aren’t even using. When I used to operate a cab, the company liked us to keep the engines running in wintertime. I’ve seen the same thing with the City of Ketchum, snow removal machinery – sometimes they run the engines for an hour or two, without actually operating the machinery, but to keep them warm and at ready stand-by. Probably a wise choice, when we’re facing harsh single-digit weather conditions.

As far as parking goes, some people allow themselves to become spoiled here. I’m not immune to this either. Where I grew up in a larger city, if I discovered a parking spot within ten blocks of the movie theatre, I felt like I had scored big. Here when you have to walk five blocks it seems like a long slog, until I remember…

Perhaps we could design a poll to complement the blogpost.

Something like:

Q: What’s your favorite idling car excuse?

1. I didn’t want to lose the spot at where my music was playing.

2. I couldn’t find a palm tree to park under and my baby was in the back, so I needed to keep the air-conditioner running.

3. Need to keep beer fresh and cool.

4. Practicing Heyoka methodology.

5. High altitudes amplify my natural stupidity.

6. Etc.

I wonder how people would feel about idling, if cars ran off solar / water and emitted no pollution. Some idle observers might immediately lose interest in the subject, as they tend to focus more on arguing than truly seeking solutions. Some would probably argue don’t forget about the noise they create; but personally, I would like to welcome the sound of idling cars operating effectively off small amounts of water as something to harmonize with; something good enough to whet the environmental curiosity of even the saltiest of Ketchum’s rough-idling dogs.

Update on this subject:

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