New Parliamentary Bill to Restrict the Speed of Electric Scooters

The Minister of Infrastructure has proposed a bill to amend the Traffic Law. Among other things, the bill includes changes to the rules for electric scooters, Vísir reports.

Enormously popular over the past few years

Last week, the Minister of Infrastructure, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, proposed a bill to amend the Traffic Law (Umferðarlög, No. 77/2019), which, among other things, will alter the rules for electric scooters.

The popularity of electric scooters has increased enormously in recent years, and with growing popularity, there has been a slew of accidents – including one fatality. If the changes are implemented, scooters may no longer be driven faster than 25 kilometres per hour. Bicycles capable of exceeding that speed would also be banned from traffic.

The bill further stipulates that drivers of electric scooters would be allowed to drive on roads where the maximum speed does not exceed 30 kilometres per hour. Rules will also be set regarding the blood alcohol content of the electric-scooter operators, as well as an age limit; children under the age of thirteen will be prohibited from riding electric scooters, and children under the age of sixteen will be required to wear a helmet.

Hope to increase traffic safety

As noted in a press release from the government’s website: “The bill proposes changes based on the recommendations of a working group on small vehicles that were presented last year. Their aim is to increase the road safety of small vehicles without standing in the way of the further development of more diverse modes of transport.”

If the amendment is enshrined in law, a general ban on altering the speed settings of electric vehicles, light mopeds, and electric bicycles will also come into effect.

ISK 130 Million in Grants to Strengthen Rural Settlements

Útivera Ganga Náttúra Gengið frá Aðalvík að Hesteyri og til baka

The Minister of Infrastructure has allocated a total of ISK 130 million ($910,000 / €848,000) in grants to twelve projects in rural Iceland in accordance with the regional development plan. Emphasis is placed on strengthening areas suffering from chronic population decline, unemployment, and a lack of economic diversity.

12 projects organised by seven regional associations

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Infrastructure, has allocated grants in the amount of ISK 130 million ($910,000 / €848,000) to 12 projects organised by seven regional associations. The grants are intended to strengthen the country’s rural settlements and are allocated to specific projects in key areas in accordance with the regional development plan for the years 2022-2036. A total of 32 applications for grants, totalling over ISK 857 million ($6 million / €5.6 million), were received for the year 2023.

The aim of the grants is to connect individual plans within different regions of Iceland with the government’s regional development plan while also affording locals greater responsibility in the allocation of funds. Emphasis is placed on strengthening areas with chronic population decline, unemployment, and a lack of economic diversity.

Projects that receive funding must benefit individual regions, localities within the region, or the region as a whole. Population development, the composition of the economy, the level of employment, and average income were among the factors that were used as a basis for evaluating applications. A three-member selection committee reviewed the applications and made recommendations to the minister.

Value creation in sheep farming, Straumhvörf

The projects that received the highest funding are “value creation in sheep breeding areas,” which received the highest single grant from the Ministry of Infrastructure’s fund. The project incentivises innovation and value creation in sparsely populated areas that are heavily reliant on sheep farming. The funding – ISK 21.6 million ($151,000 / €141,000) – will go to the Federation of Municipalities in West Iceland, the Association of Local Authorities in the Westfjords (i.e. Fjórðungssamband Vestfirðinga), and the Federation of Municipalities in Northwest Iceland.

The second highest grant went to the Straumhvörf project, which is a collaboration between the Federation of Municipalities in East, Northwest, and West Iceland; Visit North and East Iceland (i.e. áfangastofa norður- og austurlands); Austurbrú; and the Marketing Office of North Iceland (i.e. Markaðsstofu Norðurlands). Straumhvörf is a project seeking to implement a design and product workshop for a new tourist circuit around East and North Iceland in connection with direct international flights to Egilsstaðir and Akureyri. The Federation of Municipalities in East Iceland will receive a grant of ISK 15.6 million ($110,000 / €102,000).

25 Indicted in Bankastræti Club Knife Attack, Youngest 19

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

Most of the 25 defendants in the Bankastræti Club case are in their twenties. The oldest is in his forties, while the youngest is 19 years old, RÚV reports. Despite the defendants having registered legal domiciles in different parts of the country, the indictment will be registered in one of the courtrooms of the District Court.

District attorney issues indictment

The district attorney issued an indictment in the Bankastræti Club case last Thursday. A group of masked men barged into the nightclub in November of last year and attacked three men. 25 are charged, one of them for attempted murder, RÚV reports. The latter has a registered legal domicile in Hafnarfjörður and will turn twenty in September. He is the only defendant being held in custody.

The man in custody is said to have stabbed three men, one of whom suffered seven stab wounds: He was stabbed twice in the right shoulder, twice on the right side of his chest, twice in the right thigh, and once in the right forearm. Another victim was stabbed once in the left side and the third once in the right forearm and once in the right thigh.

Ten are then charged with a specially dangerous assault. They are said to have attacked the three victims with kicks and punches. One member of the group is accused of hitting one of the victims repeatedly with a bat.

The other fourteen are accused of participating in the attack. They burst into the club wearing masks, were informed of the intent, and were inside the club during the attack. The prosecutor told RÚV that they thus posed a threat to the three victims and were complicit in the attack.

An unusually large group of defendants

The indictment was received by the Reykjavík District Court on Tuesday. The presiding judge will now assign the case to a judge who issues a summons that must then be served on the defendants.

Chief Judge Ingibjörg Þorsteinsdóttir told RÚV that this was “an unusually large number of defendants.” Ingibjörg was unwilling to comment further on how the proceedings would be conducted as the case had yet to be assigned to a judge; however, it is necessary to consider how best to conduct the proceedings. As noted by RÚV, there are various possibilities in the situation, but the indictment would always be registered in one of the courtrooms of the district court.

Although, according to the indictment, the 25 defendants have registered legal domiciles in different areas of the country – Eskifirður, Hvolsvelli, Sandgerði, Reykjanesbær, Akureyri, Selfoss, and Reykjavík – the summons can be served at the person’s place of residence. Most of the defendants have a place of residence in the capital area, and, as RÚV notes, it has become more and more common for lawyers to be authorised to accept summons on behalf of their clients.

Most of the defendants are in their twenties; two are 19 years old. A few are in their thirties. The oldest is 37 years old. The latter is also charged with weapons and drug offences; the police found brass knuckles, four knives, a baseball bat, an air pistol, and 0.63 grams of cocaine.

About thirty were arrested in connection with the investigation of the case and the attack had several consequences. Police preparedness was increased in the city centre for the following weekends, and the Minister of Justice declared war on organised crime. Both the American and British embassies also asked tourists from these two respective countries to show caution during a night out on the town.

Temporarily Appointed State Mediator to Meet with Efling, SA Today

If a strike among oil and truck drivers, set to begin at noon today, becomes a reality, fuel could run out in the capital area as early as Thursday evening. Product shortages could also mean the closing of grocery stores, RÚV reports. Ástráður Haraldsson, the temporarily appointed state mediator in place of Aðalsteinn Leifsson, has called a meeting with representatives from the Efling union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) this morning at 9 AM.

Isavia with fuel for 7-10 days

Barring any new developments, 500 hotel employees in Reykjavík and more than 70 freight and oil distribution truck drivers are set to go on strike at noon. The strike could have far-reaching effects in the Southwest corner of Iceland, RÚV reports.

According to information from Isavia – the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland – the company’s fuel reserves are sufficient to sustain operations at Keflavík Airport for seven to ten days. As noted by a press release from Efling yesterday, Efling granted 70 exemption requests yesterday evening (three were denied), but it remains to be seen whether Isava will file for an exemption. Among those who successfully applied for exemptions were the National Police Commissioner, the capital area fire department, the Red Cross, Strætó, the National Broadcaster (RÚV), and the winter service of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.

Ástráður Haraldsson, the temporarily appointed state mediator in place of Aðalsteinn Leifsson – who stepped aside following a ruling by the Court of Appeal – has called a meeting with representatives from the Efling union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) this morning at 9 AM. The Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market has stated that the government will not intervene in the dispute at this time.

Grocery Stores Could Close

Guðmundur Marteinsson, CEO of the grocery store Bónus, told RÚV that the store’s shelves are adequately stocked to last through the weekend. After the weekend, however, if there is a shortage of products in the capital area, stores may have to be closed.

In an interview with Fréttablaðið yesterday, Guðmundur stated that Bónus had been preparing for strikes by placing larger-than-usual orders. When asked if the truck drivers’ strike would affect some products more than others, Guðmundur replied that almost all of Bónus’ entire range of products would be affected. “We get products delivered every single day, there is not a lot of space to store large overstocks.”

Gas stations could run dry in a matter of days

An article on Vísir yesterday noted that the sale of gasoline and oil had increased significantly, with drivers having brought various containers to the pump in order to store gasoline in the event of a long strike. The CEO of N1, Hinrik Örn Bjarnason, told Vísir that customers could begin to feel the effect of the strike as early as this evening.

“I’ve been driving between our stations yesterday and today. Last night, I saw people filling up old oil drums. There have been a lot of different kinds of bottles and containers sold,” Hinrik Örn remarked.