New Neighbourhood By Reykjavík Airport to Prioritise Pedestrians

skerjafjörður

Pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly design is the focus of a new residential development by Reykjavík’s domestic airport. The plans for the development, an addition to the existing Skerjafjörður neighbourhood, were presented at an online town hall meeting yesterday. The development is a part of the City of Reykjavík’s “green development” initiative.

Design Prioritises Pedestrians and Cyclists

“Pedestrians and cyclists will be the first priority in all of the neighbourhood’s design,” a notice on the City of Reykjavík website states. All parking for the development will be located within the parking garage, with limited parking spaces at street level to ensure accessibility. The neighbourhood will be also be serviced by public transportation.

“The neighbourhood will be surrounded by green spaces, a new beach area, and there will be space for squares, playgrounds and lounge areas, and a lot of plants between the buildings,” the notice continues. The neighbourhood has other environmentally-friendly elements, including a filtration system for rainwater.

Construction in Two Stages

The Skerjafjörður development will be built in two stages. The first stage will consist of the construction of 700 apartment buildings, 2-5 stories high, along with a preschool, elementary school, and a covered parking garage with a grocery store and shops on ground level. The development will also contain student housing and affordable units. The second stage of construction, which involves filling land and the creation of a beach, is currently undergoing an environmental assessment. The entire development will contain 1,300-1,500 apartments, with the first phase of construction is expected to begin at the end of this year.

skerjafjörður
Photo: Reykjavíkurborg.

Should Not Affect Airport Operations

According to the notice, the Skerjafjörður development “will not impair the current operations nor the utilisation of Reykjavík Airport.” Though a decision has been made to eventually move the airport out of the city centre, City Councillor Vigdís Hauksdóttir of the Centre Party says that the city is violating its agreement with the state by starting construction before a new location for the airport has been confirmed.

Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, chairperson of the City’s Planning and Transportation Committee, denies the construction is in violation of any agreements. “Residents have voted to move the airport. The general zoning plan says that the airport should go. It is economically advantageous to move the airport,” she told Vísir reporters. “Now we are facing climate change and one of the biggest steps we can take is to densify the area and build a residential development where the airport is.”

Poll Shows 90.4% Support for Guðni in Upcoming Election

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

Nine out of ten Icelanders (90.4%) would vote Guðni Th. Jóhannesson in for a second term as President. Guðni’s only opponent, Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson, was supported by 9.6% of respondents to a recent poll conducted by Gallup.

While almost 95% of female respondents would vote for Guðni, the percentage was lower among men, at 86%. Of those with a university degree, 95% supported Guðni, while 86% of those who had completed secondary education and 89% of those who completed primary education would also vote for him.

Guðmundur Franklín enjoyed his highest rates of support among voters over 60 (15%) and among supporters of the Centre Party (55%).

Over 3,000 Attend Black Lives Matter Meeting in Iceland

Black lives matter protest Reykjavík

Austurvöllur square, in front of Iceland’s Parliament building, filled with over 3,000 people yesterday afternoon for a solidarity meeting organised by African Americans living in Iceland. The meeting began with an emotional moment of silence lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, leading to Floyd’s death in Minnesota on May 25.

“It was great for thinking about these issues, not just about George Floyd, but everyone that came before,” Derek T. Allan, one of the organisers of the protest, told Vísir. “The atmosphere was something else, it’s difficult to describe. It warms the heart to see so many and that they were here to listen to us.”

Police in Attendance

One Black Icelander that spoke to reporters pointed out that Iceland is not free of racism, saying she had experienced it from an early age. “It’s pain that no one can understand unless they’ve experienced it. It’s a very sad and tiring thing,” she stated.

Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir, newly appointed Police Commissioner of the Reykjavík Capital Area, was also present at the event. “We were here to show solidarity with the issue,” she stated. “I think it’s very important that we all be equal before the law, and it was very important to come here and hear what they had to say.”

Westfjords residents also show solidarity

A solidarity meeting was also held in Ísafjörður, the largest town in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. Around 100 people gathered in the town centre, where, like in Reykjavík, the meeting began with a moment of silence.

Vouchers No Substitute for Reimbursement, EU Says

iceland parliament

A new ruling by the European Commission may affect a parliamentary bill drafted in Iceland in April, which would allow travel companies in Iceland to offer vouchers to clients whose trips were cancelled due to coronavirus. The European Commission ruled that Danish travel companies are not allowed to offer clients vouchers as an alternative to monetary reimbursement for trips cancelled due to coronavirus, RÚV reports.

EU says “No”

As noted in an article published yesterday on DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), the Danish parliament has discussed the possibility of allowing travel companies to offer vouchers – which would be valid for 12 or 18 months – to those clients whose trips were cancelled due to coronavirus. If clients did not use the vouchers during the time that they were valid, they would be offered monetary reimbursement. The proposal was intended to combat the liquidity crisis of travel companies during the pandemic.

The Danish parliament submitted the proposal to the European Parliament for consideration. In a press release yesterday, the EU briefly outlined the European Commission’s opposition to the proposal: “Carriers and travel companies can offer vouchers for journeys and holidays cancelled due to coronavirus. However, this offer cannot affect passengers’ and travellers’ right to opt for reimbursement instead, the European Commission has explained.”

The conclusion is predicated on the EU’s four passenger-rights regulations (regulations 261/2004, 1371/2007, 1177/2010 and 181/2011), which endow passengers with a full set of rights, whether they travel by air, rail, ship, bus, or coach.

The ruling will have interpretational value on proposed legislation in Iceland.

Proposal met with harsh criticism

In April, Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Innovation, Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, submitted a parliamentary bill that would allow travel companies to offer vouchers to those clients whose trips were cancelled due to coronavirus. The bill formed a part of the government’s action plan against the economic effects of COVID-19.

The bill met with harsh criticism. The Consumer Association of Iceland came out against the proposal, arguing that it was unacceptable to ask consumers to solve the liquidity crisis of travel companies. Supreme court attorney Vilhjálmur Þ. Á. Vilhjálmsson has stated that the bill violates Article 72 of the constitution, regarding the right of private ownership.

In an interview with Fréttablaðið today, Breki Karlsson, Director of the Consumer Association of Iceland, has stated that the EU’s ruling “must be the final nail in the coffin” of the Minister of Tourism’s bill.