Engines of disquietude

It’s not often that one decision can make a huge change for the better in the quality of life for an entire community. However, the Sacramento City Council could do just that if it chooses to go against the wind. SN&R believes that the city should ban the use of leaf blowers, whether gas- or electric-powered, in Sacramento.

That sounds like drastic action, until you look at the big picture. It’s not just the polluting two-stroke gasoline-and-oil-powered engines on older leaf blowers; it’s also the noise, the refuse that simply gets moved from one place to another and the toxic dust that gets kicked up into the air by all such contraptions.

In a climate like ours, leaf blowers are a constant. It’s worse in late fall and early winter, when the devices are actually being used to blow leaves. But most lawn-maintenance services, as well as individual homeowners, use the machines year-round, often violating the city’s noise regulations in residential areas.

While the operators are often using protective gear, passersby are generally not. Who among us has not, on one occasion or another, gotten a face full of dust and debris from a leaf blower? Or been forced to plot an alternate path down the street to avoid one? Or seen the dust (and heard the noise) from blocks away and decided it’s not worth subjecting oneself to the physical hassle just to get a cup of coffee?

For those of our neighbors who have health difficulties, the leaf blowers present a much more serious problem: The dust, particles of organic matter and trash that leaf blowers send flying can easily cause illnesses and asthma attacks. It’s not a minor thing for a large number of people; asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases are a major issue in urban areas and can easily be life-threatening.

Even if noise was the only issue, banning leaf blowers would improve our quality of life. It will make sidewalks safe for walks and conversations again, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and eliminate those anthropogenic dust clouds a block wide.

What’s more, a return to rakes and brooms is good for the body. It allows people to stop a moment for conversation or just to admire the day. It’s simply more human, and more humane.

For all these reasons, SN&R asks that the city council consider banning the use of leaf blowers. We urge our readers to contact city council members, Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Manager Ray Kerridge to petition for relief from these smoking engines of disquietude. Such opportunities don’t come around that often.

Let’s have a quieter, less dusty city.