Pledging to "declare war on idling," Mayor Bill de Blasio has enlisted the help of Billy Idol to force drivers to cut their engines while parked — or risk disappointing the legendary English punk.
A new city-funded awareness campaign — less a rebel yell than a municipal murmur — will stress the environmental and health impacts posed by illegal idling. The message will be delivered through new billboards, gas station TV ads, and a website, all centered around that Idle/Idol thing.
The singer himself was on hand for the kick-off, happily posing next to massive signs and various merchandise affirming that "Billy Never Idles" (well, maybe not never).
"Yeah, it’s a fun play on my name," the Los Angeles resident offered, when asked how exactly he'd come to be here, standing outside New York's City Hall, hamming it up with elected officials, cops, and local reporters.
See, Billy Idol gets it.
De Blasio also painted himself as an anti-idling evangelical, explaining how he frequently directs his security team to force drivers to cut their engines. "Idling is just stupid. We all do it but we don’t need to," explained the mayor. "I’m obsessive [about idling]. Like all the blanking time. This is like a real thing for me."
The mayor has faced scrutiny in the past for the idling motorcade that often accompanies his 11-mile daily trip to the gym. And despite the fact that "idling pisses [him] off," de Blasio doesn't plan on changing up his gym routine or giving up his city SUV, either. "It is what it is," he said.
The new initiative, which will cost $1 million, follows the City Council's 2018 expansion of a law that deputizes New Yorkers to report idling commercial vehicles and collect a quarter of the fine. A vehicle is considered to be idling illegally after three minutes, except for outside hospitals and schools, where it's one minute.
Some 5,000 violations have been issued for idling in the last 12 months, according to city officials, and those who report scofflaw behavior have earned $387,000.
But while that law has resulted in major profits for some New Yorkers, it doesn't seem to have done much to curb the explosion of delivery vehicles that idle consequence-free on city streets, even as ticketing has gone up.
"On paper, we have anti-idling laws, but we don’t actually get the benefit of those, particularly for delivery drivers," said Kevin Edwards, the senior air quality director at AKRF, an environmental consulting firm.
Thanks to a city program that dramatically reduces the cost of fines for major trucking companies, it's often easier for companies to just accept the occasional ticket, rather than change behavior.
"If the cost of it makes sense they will just take the ticket," Edwards added. "The only way you’re going to change that financial sense is through higher fines or more serious enforcement.”
It seems unlikely that Billy Idol — seductively powerful and British as he is — will be bringing either of those outcomes to New York City anytime soon.