Heedless Tourists Call for More Rest Stops on Ring Road

Route 1

Roads in Iceland must be made safer, says the Director of the Public Roads Administration in an interview with RÚV. Owing to a lack of lay-bys (or rest stops), there are over 100 places along the Ring Road where tourists habitually pull their vehicles over, which increases the risk of accidents. Increased funding is needed.

Heedless Motorists

Tourists have had a significant impact on the Ring Road (or Route 1, a 1,332km road that loops around the island). Many have reported seeing them walking along the road, parking their vehicles on the shoulder, or simply stopping their cars in the middle of the road. In a meeting held Wednesday, January 29, the Public Roads Administration discussed the prospect of additional lay-bys.

“We’re worried about tourists on the Ring Road. There’s an increased risk of accidents. That’s why we’re interested in determining how many lay-bys to introduce and where. It’s a matter of hospitality, in some sense: offering suitable, safe places from where travellers can take in the landscape and take pictures,” Bergþóra Þorkelsdóttir, Director of the Public Roads Administration stated in an interview with RÚV.

102 Spots

“I drove the Ring Road recently and took note of 102 such places. They are, actually, more numerous, as many of these places occur along long stretches of the road that afford the same view. With a suitable lay-by and adequate signage, we could nudge these motorists toward safe places where they could take photographs,” Sóley Jónasdóttir, a project manager at the Public Roads Administration’s Design Department stated.

According to Sóley, the need for increased safety is most urgent in South Iceland, in Eldhraun, and near Mývatn, among other places. Tourists pulling over to the side of the road increase the risk of accidents, while also damaging the road itself.

“Shoulders flatten out, verges and surface dressings crack, and the road begins disintegrating. There are always going to be novel challenges, as well. Like in Brekkukot, by the roots of the Eyjafjöll mountain range, where it’s become customary to leave bras dangling on the fence. We’re talking a long stretch of road where traffic slows considerably; people slow down, stop, and try to take pictures,” Sóley said.

Winter Conditions

The weather and road conditions during winter, also play a significant role. There have been six traffic accidents on the Ring Road in January.

“Traffic has increased by 50% since 2013, much of it owing to tourists. Clearly, the Public Roads Administration is using all available funds for road-safety measures. Much more needs to be done, of course, given that the road is being used in a completely different way than we initially imagined,” Bergþóra stated.

Asked what’s holding the Administration back, Bergþóra replied: “A lack of funding, first and foremost.”

Bíó Paradís to Close Its Doors This Spring

Bíó Paradís

Reykjavík’s only downtown movie theatre, Bíó Paradís, expects to close its doors this spring, RÚV reports. The theatre, known for programming award-winning foreign movies and hosting a variety of film festivals, has given its staff three months’ notice. The closure is a consequence of the theatre’s landlords nearly tripling the rent.

Bíó Paradís was opened in the fall of 2010, taking over from movie theatre Regnboginn. Along with screening foreign movies and hosting a variety of festivals, the theatre is an important venue for Icelandic film community, screening local films and hosting educational events for children “with the aim of enhancing knowledge and education of this important art form,” as the theatre’s website states.

The theatre’s landlords are former executives of the investment fund GAMMA. They have decided to nearly triple Bíó Paradís’ rent in order to raise it close to market value. Hrönn Sveinsdóttir, the cinema’s CEO, says the rent hike takes effect this coming July. “This issue is not about the owners. If it were any other investor, they would probably do the same thing,” Hrönn told reporters at Stundin. “The current owners were willing to rent to us at below market value but made it clear to me that after five years, on June 30, 2020, the rent would be raised.”

Hrönn says the cinema has appealed to the City of Reykjavík and the government for support, but with no success so far. Talks with the city are ongoing. “We’re still talking to them and we hope that it’s still possible to save this operation, the first and only home of cinema in Iceland.” Hrönn adds that the only way to keep Bíó Paradís operating is to ensure it can remain at its current location, as it would be too expensive to relocate.

An ongoing poll on Stundin’s website asks visitors to vote on whether they support the government funding the cinema in order to keep it open. As of the time of writing, 89% of respondents have voted that they “strongly support” government intervention.

No Magma Near the Surface by Grindavík

Þorbjörn efitr Pálmi Erlendsson Veðurstofan

The Icelandic Met Office has increased monitoring by Þorbjörn mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula. Land west of the mountain continues to rise, though gas measurements show no evidence that magma has risen near the surface. Land rise and earthquakes at the location suggest magma is accumulating under the surface, just north of the town of Grindavík.

“With increased monitoring, we are receiving more data in house which gives a clearer picture of the development by Þorbjörn mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula,” the statement from the Met Office reads. While land rise continues at a steady pace, gas and water samples from the area give no evidence that magma is near the surface.

Earthquakes can be expected to continue in the area, and the strongest of them near Grindavík. “The most likely explanation for this activity is a magma intrusion at a depth of 3-5km (1.9-3.1mi) just west of Þorbjörn. Most often such activity concludes without an eruption,” the statement closes.

According to geophysicist Páll Einarsson, if an eruption were to occur, experts would most likely be able to warn authorities hours in advance.

Young Man Dead Following Esja Avalanche

fatal accident Iceland

A 23-year-old man who landed in an avalanche yesterday on Esja mountain in the Reykjavík capital area has died, Fréttablaðið reports. The man was named Sigurður Darri Björnsson and lived in Hafnarfjörður.

Police were notified that three people had been caught in the avalanche on Móskarðshnjúkar, part of the Esja mountain range, around 12.30pm yesterday. Sigurður was found around two hours later by search and rescue teams. He was transported to hospital by helicopter, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.