Reykjavík City Announces Expansion of Paid Parking Zones

architecture downtown Reykjavík houses square

Changes will soon be made to paid parking zones in Reykjavík, the City announced yesterday. A recent tally indicates that parking spaces just outside paid-parking zones are heavily used.

Heavy use of spaces just outside paid parking zones

Yesterday, the City announced that it will be expanding paid parking zones in Reykjavík. According to a press release, a recent tally has indicated that spaces just beyond paid parking zones are heavily used. This gives “occasion to expand paid-parking zones in specific areas” and in accordance with regulations. The expansion will mainly apply to Zone 2 parking spaces but also to Zone 1 and 3.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the City’s Environment and Planning Branch (Umhverfis- og skipulagsráð) approved a proposal, which has subsequently been referred to City Council. The proposal has also been put to the capital area police where it met with approval. The proposal will, however, not come into effect prior to approval and publication by City Council. Appropriate signage and metres must also be installed within new paid-parking zones.

The following parking zones will be expanded:

  • Parking Zone 1
    • Grettisgata between Rauðarárstígur and Snorrabraut
  • Parking Zone 2
    • Hrannarstígur
    • Öldugata, Bárugata, Ránargata, and Vesturgata (between Ægisgata and Stýrimannastígur
    • Stýrimannastígur
    • Blómvallagata
    • Ásvallagata and Sólvallagata (east of Hofsvallagata)
    • Hávallagata (between Hofsvallagata and Blómvallagata)
    • Tjarnargata (from no. 33 to Hringbraut)
    • Bjarkargata
    • Baldursgata (between Freyjugata and Skólavörðustígur)
    • Lokastígur and Þórsgata up to Skólavörðustígur
    • The area between Laugavegur, Rauðarárstígur and Bríetartún
  • Parking Zone 3
    • Baldursgata and Bragagata (from Nönnugata to Freyjugata)
    • Freyjugata (from Baldursgata to Njarðargata)

As noted by the press release, residents within paid parking zones can apply for residential cards. Conditions being met, holders of residential cards are allowed to park within applicable parking zones for free.

Where can I read more about Iceland’s hidden people?

iceland hidden people elves

When I was travelling recently, I saw emblazoned on the beverage cart of a certain budget Icelandic airliner a motto. I may not remember it correctly, but it went something like: “50% of Icelanders may believe in elves, but 100% of Icelanders believe in delicious chocolate.” Or something to that effect.

Everybody loves to read headlines like “Construction Modified for the Sake of the Elves” and “Elves Approve Drilling Project,” and yes, we enjoy writing them sometimes. But there’s no denying that elves and the hidden people are increasingly used to sell things and to paint an image of Iceland as a wholesome, mystical place where nothing goes wrong, everyone wears lopapeysur, and people still believe in the old myths. When someone is trying to sell you something, it’s always a good occasion to raise your eyebrows.

Now, with those cantankerous caveats out of the way, yes, Iceland does have a folk tradition of elves, and many Icelanders to this day “believe” in them, or at least use them as a way to talk about nature, the landscape, and everyday coincidences.

If you’re interested in a more academic consideration of elves and other magical beings, John Lindow’s “Handbook of Norse Mythology” is a good general reference for many topics related to Scandinavian folklore and religion. Another option, Alaric Hall’s “Elves in Anglo-Saxon England” is, of course, not about Iceland as such, but was a very influential study of the phenomenon with many parallels to beliefs in Iceland as well.

If you’re looking for something lighter, “The Little Book of the Hidden People” is popular and fun, and can be found in most tourist shops throughout Iceland.

Another, more recent offering is Nancy Marie Brown’s “Looking for the Hidden Folk,” which occupies a nice middle ground between the scholarly and popular. She takes elves seriously as a cultural belief, and knows how to tell a story about them and their role in the history and lives of Icelanders.

Finally, you may be also interested in the work of Jón Árnason. A 19th scholar and author, he was one of the first to really take folklore seriously and collect the traditional tales told on farmsteads through the country, making him a kind of Icelandic brothers Grimm. He was also the first national librarian of Iceland, and the collection he curated eventually became the National Museum of Iceland. A translated selection of works from his original two-volume “Icelandic Folktales and Fairytales” is available in most bookstores in Iceland.

And just a word of warning: there are plenty of interesting websites, blogs, and social media accounts out there with information about the elves, but it may not all be the most accurate. The hidden people have taken on a life of their own in the last few years, and if you want actual information about the history of this belief, then you’re best off with a book that had an editor!

Leadership of Independence Party to be Contested?

This week, Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson confirmed that he is considering his candidacy for Chair of Iceland’s Independence Party – at the party’s National Convention next weekend. Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, who has served as the leader of the Icelandic Independence Party since 2009, has stated that it would be “unusual to change the party leadership” when so little time has elapsed since the formation of a new coalition government.

A brief history of the Independence Party

Iceland’s Independence Party was formed in 1929 through a merger of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. The party has won the largest share of the vote in every election except 2009 (when it fell behind the Social Democratic Alliance). Furthermore, every Independence Party leader has at some point held the office of Prime Minister. Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, has served as the leader of the Icelandic Independence Party since 2009.

The party commonly hosts its National Convention every two years. Owing to the pandemic, however, the Independence Party has not held a National Convention for four and a half years. In the run-up to this year’s convention, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson – who first became involved with the Independence Party in 1987 when he was elected to the board of the National Youth Organisation – surprised not a few party members, and ordinary citizens alike, by confirming that he was considering running against Chairman Bjarni.

Speaking to RÚV yesterday, Guðlaugur voiced his concern for the state of the party: “Many have encouraged me to run. Their message is always the same: they’re worried about the state of the party. They – and this goes for me, too – don’t accept our current position … and without the necessary support, it will be more difficult for us to implement our policy and our ideals.”

According to RÚV’s sources, Guðlaugur has entertained the notion of running for Chairman “for some time … having privately and publicly laid the foundation for his candidacy by ensuring that his supporters hold the reins in certain key positions that allocate seats at the National Convention. Meanwhile, Bjarni has focused his attention on the state finances during troubling times.” Approximately 2,000 party members will be offered seats at the Convention, who would then be eligible to vote in the event that Guðlaugur decided to throw his hat in the ring.

“Come at the king, best not miss”

Writing for RÚV, reporter María Sigrún Hilmarsdóttir, citing aforementioned sources, states that Guðlaugur Þór is aware that he’s got “one shot in the gun,” so to speak, and that now may be the time; Guðlaugur Þór defeated Minister Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir during the Independence Party’s primary elections in Reykjavík last summer, and if Guðlaugur Þór fails to announce now, it would be “a sign of weakness and a lack of courage.”

Supporters of Chairman Bjarni Benediktsson are “prepared for the fight,” according to RÚV’s sources. Some of them are, however, surprised that Guðlaugur hadn’t taken “more conventional routes” in declaring his candidacy: announcing his intentions sooner and embarking on a “nationwide campaign of meetings to gather support and shore up his position.”

Bjarni’s supporters also maintain that the current Chairman has yet to reach his prime – and that his best years are still ahead of him. They also note that “any talk of loss of popular support is empty given that the political landscape has altered beyond recognition over the past years … given that 10 parties are now in the running.” Bjarni’s supporters also note – as Bjarni himself has noted – that the Chairman enjoys much greater support among his constituency compared to Guðlaugur.

The Climate Disaster Has “Already Begun to Materialise”

Climate Change

The international community is “falling far short of the Paris goals,” a new UN report finds. “The disaster has already begun to materialise,” Halldór Þorgeirsson, Chair of Iceland’s Climate Council, told RÚV yesterday.

The 2022 Emissions Gap Report

Yesterday, October 27, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published its 2022 edition of the Emissions Gap report. The report provides an update on the progress towards “achieving national mitigation pledges” and the goals set by the Paris Agreement by taking stock of the so-called “emissions gap.”

As noted by a UN press release, the report concludes that the international community is “falling far short of the Paris goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place.” The authors state that the only way to avoid climate disaster is via an urgent “system-wide transformation.”

Read More: The Age of Eco-Anxiety

“Global and national climate commitments are falling pitifully short,” Secretary General of the UN António Guterres stated in a video message during an introduction of the report yesterday. “We must close the emissions gap before climate catastrophe closes in on us all.”

Chair of Iceland’s Climate Council

To address the report’s findings, RÚV invited the Chair of Iceland’s Climate Council Halldór Þorgeirsson (and a retired Senior Director at the UN Climate Change Secretariat) to an interview during yesterday’s nightly news. Halldór was blunt: “These disasters have already begun to materialise, and this year, we have seen disasters that are truly man-made. The strongest example being Pakistan, and, just as bad, and nearer to home, Florida.

“These things are already manifesting in such a way that it’s no longer a question of the future. Our meagre achievements means that the window of opportunity grows ever narrower; there’s much less time. That’s why the only feasible path forward is to undertake fast and extensive system-wide transformation.”

The only way to do this, Halldór maintained, was increased investment. “These are large figures but in reality, it’s only about 2% of the total budget. So it certainly seems doable. Central banks play a big role, and we need to rethink the economy. That’s what this is about – alongside greater cooperation between nations.”

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) will be held from November 6 to 18 in Egypt. It will mark the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference. According to Halldór, no “big decisions” are expected to be made during the conference.

“This conference will focus more on following through with the agreement,” Halldór observed. “The implementation of the Paris Agreement was concluded in Glasgow last year. During the first two days of the conference, global leaders will be present, and the messages that they send matter. All eyes will be on China. They’ve been quite reticent. Then there’s this very strong undercurrent, connected to those aforementioned disasters because one of the big questions of this conference is how we provide aid to nations who suffer such disasters.”