Large Turnout Expected for Reykjavík’s Annual Culture Night

Arnarhóll

Reykjavík’s annual Culture Night will be held this Saturday, August 19. Organisers expect a large turnout, and attendees are encouraged to ride their bikes or take the bus to the city centre, RÚV reports.

Visitors urged to bike or take the bus

Reykjavík’s 28th annual Culture Night will be held tomorrow, Saturday, August 19. This year’s programme will feature concerts, workshops, art exhibitions, and more, before culminating in the annual fireworks display at 11 PM (click here for more information on the programme). Meteorologists expect good visibility.

As always, attendees are urged to bike or take the bus to the city centre. As noted by RÚV, while past bus rides on Culture Night have been free – standard fares will apply this year. During the festivities, buses will depart with increased frequency on routes 1-6, 11-15.

After 10.30 PM, all buses will reroute to Sæbraut (near the Sun Voyager sculpture), from where passengers will be ferried home for free following the fireworks. Reykjavík’s nighttime bus service will commence at 1 AM.

Limited parking space

Those who intend to drive to the city centre should be mindful of limited parking space. Drivers are encouraged to park in Laugardalur or Borgartún and use the free Strætó shuttle service from the Laugardalshöll arena (with stops at Borgartún and Hlemmur en route to the Hallgrímskirkja church).

See below map for details on street closures and key locations.

Menningarnótt 2023

Major streets including Hverfisgata, Laugavegur, Sóleyjargata, Skothúsvegur, and Geirsgata will close from 7 AM to 1 PM on Saturday, with Sæbraut being partially closed, as well.

The Reykjavík Marathon, which will be ongoing from 8 AM to 4 PM, will also affect traffic, starting today at 4 PM (see the marathon website for details).

Westman Islands the Guest of Honour

The guest of honour at this year’s Culture Night will be the Westman Islands, with representatives from the archipelago hosting an entertainment programme at Reykjavík City Hall. Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson and Mayor of the Westman Islands Íris Róbertsdóttir will hold a joint press conference at the Hljómskálagarðurinn Park at 11 AM on Saturday.

The concert at Arnarhóll will begin at 19.30 PM. Flóni, Aron Can, Diljá, Una Torfa, HAM, Klara Elias will take the stage. Ragga Gísla will close the concert, joined by Valdimar, GDRN, and Mugison.

Strætó Bus Service Transitions Fully to KLAPP App

Public bus in Reykjavík

Strætó, the Reykjavík capital area public bus service, will close its old app on July 1 and fully transition to the Klapp app. The Klapp app currently lacks the ability to purchase bus tickets to rural areas, which can only be bought with cash or credit cards on board the buses

Full transition to KLAPP

As noted in a recent announcement, Strætó – the Reykjavík capital area public bus service – has decided to close the old Strætó app, effective July 1. The so-called Klapp app will take over completely.

The announcement highlights that the Klapp app now encompasses all functions concerning the bus network and tickets for the capital area, along with additional features. Additionally, the majority of riders have already transitioned to the new app due to its enhanced capabilities.

However, the Klapp app lacks the option to purchase bus tickets for rural areas, which can only be obtained through cash or credit card payment on the buses – a method preferred by the majority of passengers, as stated by Strætó.

According to the announcement, ticket sales through the Klapp app constituted just 3% of total fares sold in rural areas. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA), responsible for the rural bus system, is presently exploring the possibility of introducing additional payment options for rural customers.

Travellers can access rural fare prices through the “planner” section of the Klapp app and on straeto.is. Both the Klapp app and straeto.is offer trip planning, real-time coach monitoring, and price information for both the capital area and rural locations.

Incident Involving Refugee and Son Ejected from Bus Sparks Outrage

public bus Reykjavík

An account of a refugee and his son being prevented from boarding a Strætó bus from Reykjavík to Keflavík on Friday evening has invoked a public outcry and garnered a great deal of attention, both on social media and from community leaders, Vísir reports. Nichole Leigh Mosty, director of the Multicultural Information Centre, says the story isn’t surprising, and that cultural sensitivity training is important for people in service jobs who deal with diverse populations.

Refused to let another passenger pay fare

According to a public Facebook post published by Joana Diminiczak, a man and his young son boarded a Strætó 55 bus at the University of Iceland stop at 6:31 PM on Friday. The man attempted to use the payment card provided for him by the municipality of Reykjanesbær, but the card didn’t work. The driver told him he had to pay his fare out of pocket and began to berate him in front of the other passengers. The man called someone and handed the phone to the driver, who said that “‘these refugees’ never want to pay,” wrote Joana in her post, “they bring useless cards and he’s not a charity, he does his job, and wants to finally go home and have his dinner.” Joana continued, saying that the driver then turned to the man and said in English, “I live in Njarðvík [one of the towns that comprises Reykjanesbær]. I’ll find you.”

At this point, Joana said she attempted to intercede and pay the fare for the man and child, but the bus driver refused, saying he had called the police. “I ask him to call the police [back] and say the matter is resolved because I will pay for them, but he didn’t want to do it. When I say that I can call so he doesn’t have to, he still doesn’t want to let me pay!!! The man gives up, takes his son, and they get out. He looks up at the sky, near tears, but still with hope in his eyes of sparing the boy the humiliation, and says, ‘He watches us.’ We pull out and the bus driver proudly calls the police and says that he is no longer in need of assistance.”

Joana then concluded her post, writing, “Such drivers shouldn’t be driving buses. I hope that Strætó takes this matter seriously.” At time of writing, the post had received 202 largely sympathetic and outraged comments, many of which called on Strætó to address the situation. It had been also been shared around 1,400 times.

‘They need training in how to deal with this diverse group of customers’

When contacted for comment, Nichole Leigh Mosty, director of the Multicultural Information Centre, said the story did not surprise her. “I wasn’t surprised, because I know there have been difficulties implementing the Klappið app [Strætó’s payment app]. It isn’t designed for diverse members of society, for foreigners or senior citizens. And we’ve seen this behaviour from employees over and over. It’s a stressful job, but the fact that they are serving a diverse community means that they need training in how to deal with this diverse group of customers. But don’t make such prejudicial statements and [provide] poor service.”

Nichole says that cultural sensitivity training is vital. “Whenever we have people in a service position, cultural sensitivity is needed considering that there are all sorts of people who use public transportation. And those who are serving them need to be able to treat everyone who uses that service with respect.”

‘It’s very clear that we’ll be looking into what went on there’

Strætó’s director Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson told reporters that he wasn’t familiar with the situation himself, but that the case has been referred to the Icelandic Road Administration, which services bus lines that run outside of the capital area. However, at time of writing, Bergþóra Kristinsdóttir, manager of the Road Administration’s service department, said that she was not familiar with the situation either.

“It’s not a nice story. It’s not come across our desk, I’ve not received any other information about this incident. But it’s very clear that we’ll be looking into what went on there,” said Bergþóra.

Strætó’s Reykjavík Night-Time Service Could Resume Next Year

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to the operations of Strætó (Iceland’s public bus service), RÚV reports. The increased allotment is intended to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service in Reykjavík during the weekends.

An unsuccessful trial period

In early July, Strætó announced that the Reykjavík night bus, Næturstrætó, would return to service on July 9 following a two-year hiatus in response to low demand during the pandemic. During this hiatus, many capital-area residents had called for its return, arguing that it provided an affordable and safe alternative to taxis.

During a trial run between July and October of this year, however – when the night bus departed downtown Reykjavík every hour and stopped at the capital area’s seven suburban neighbourhoods – demand once again proved wanting. As noted in a press release from Strætó in October, an average of 15 passengers travelled aboard the night bus during each trip, which amounts to approximately 300 passengers over a weekend:

“In light of this, and given the finances, Strætó’s board has agreed that continuing night-time service during the weekends, now that the trial period has concluded, cannot be justified. The service will, therefore, be discontinued.

The mayor takes a u-turn

At a city council meeting yesterday, however – roughly six weeks after Strætó announced that it would be discontinuing its night-time service – Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service.

As noted by RÚV, Strætó’s night-time bus service was a key campaign issue for the Progressive Party, which went on to form a majority coalition, during municipal elections last spring.