Two Thirds of Reykjavík Residents Support Pedestrian Streets

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík

There is growing satisfaction of pedestrian streets among Reykjavík residents, according to a survey commissioned by city authorities last month. Those who use pedestrian streets expressed more support of them than those who did not. The closer residents lived to the pedestrian streets, the more positive they were toward them. Reykjavík has been expanding pedestrian-only areas in the city centre in recent years and there are plans to continue to do so.

A total of 67.2% of Reykjavík residents are positive toward its pedestrian-only zones, compared to 64.5% last year. Of those who visit Reykjavík’s pedestrian streets on a weekly basis, 82% expressed support of the initiative. Those who oppose the initiative decreased from 20.3% in 2019 to 16.1% in 2020. Those who feel pedestrian-only areas should be enlarged increased from 19.3% to 23.6% between years, despite the fact the area was actually enlarged between the two surveys.

There was a big difference in support of the initiative between neighbourhoods. Those in Vesturbær, near downtown, were the most supportive, at 89%, while those in Gravarvogur, much further away, were the least supportive, with 26% having a negative perspective on pedestrian-only streets in the centre. Young people tended to be more supportive of pedestrian streets than older people.

“It’s great to see this positive development,” stated Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, chairperson of the City of Reykjavík’s Planning and Transportation Council, “especially in light of all the changes that society has gone through this year.” Sigurborg says city staff worked hard to adapt the city centre to pedestrians this year with plants, increasing the number of oudoor benches and tables, and organising events. “It is clear that the people of Reykjavík want pedestrian streets and we are certainly making an effort to bring them to them.”

Permanent Car-Free Zones Approved on Three Downtown Streets

The City of Reykjavík’s environment and planning committee has voted to keep sections of three downtown streets permanently car-free, RÚV reports. Laugavegur, Skólavörðustígur, and Vegamótastígur will now all have pedestrian-only zones all year.

The vote was approved with votes from members of the Social Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party, the Pirate Party, and two out of three of the committee’s Independence Party members, Hildur Björnsdóttir and Katrín Atladóttir.

Hildur and Katrín’s Independence Party colleague, Marta Guðjónsdóttir, voted against the proposal saying that downtown business owners are opposed to year-round traffic closures, which contribute, she asserted, to their ongoing struggle to remain open and solvent. For their part, Hildur and Katrín said that the new car-free streets must be managed in consultation with pedestrians, shop owners, and stakeholders. “A lack of cooperation over major construction developments, constant property tax increases, wage increases, and the rise of online shopping are among the things that have created difficulties for shop owners in downtown Reykjavík,” they said.

Taking into account feedback from said stakeholders, the project will be divided into nine sections. This means that the permanent car-free zones will actually be less expensive and less disruptive to local businesses than was thought when the plan was originally proposed.

New Hlemmur Square May Be Car Free

City planning officials in Reykjavík are considering the possibility of closing the area around Hlemmur Square to traffic. Mbl.is reports that construction on the rapidly changing square, which is being developed to include more commercial and public space, will begin next year.

The current proposal would see Laugavegur closed south of Hlemmur to private cars between Rauðarárstígur and Snorrabraut. Private vehicle traffic would also be closed in sections east of the square, up to Katrínartún, where the Fíladelfía Pentecostal church is located. This proposal would also see the police station, which is currently located on Hlemmur Square, moved to a new location. An alternative version of this plan would close the area to public buses as well.

Closing these areas to car traffic would mean improved access for pedestrians, which makes sense in that the newly improved Hlemmur Square will no longer be a transportation hub, but will instead become one of the city’s prime shopping centers, including space for food trucks and market stalls.

Parents On Crossing Guard Duty After Teen Hit by Car

Reykjavík baby

Parents and school staff in the Vesturbær neighborhood on the west side of Reykjavík are on high alert after a thirteen-year-old was hit by a car while walking to school this week, RÚV reports. The same afternoon, city officials stationed a crossing guard at the accident site to make street crossings safer for schoolchildren, but just to be safe, neighborhood parents have also taken up an informal watch.

The victim, who luckily did not sustain any serious injuries during the event, was hit at the intersection of Hringbraut and Meistaravellir at 9.00am on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, neighborhood residents, such as Ólöf Jakobsdóttir and her husband and father, stationed themselves at different points along the busy street in the early morning hours. The new crossing guard is intended to be stationed at Hringbraut and Meistaravellir until the spring, but Ólöf says she intends to personally monitor traffic and pedestrians at her corner, Framnesvegur and Hringbraut, until they feel sure that local children will be safe.

Parents Take Up Watch

“[We’ll be here] for a while, at least,” Ólöf confirmed, “and we hope that [other] parents take some part in this, too. We’re going to do it, at least, me and my husband. My dad, a grandfather, is up for coming out and keeping watch there, too. Maybe until we see that it’s in place, this crossing guard patrol, that the city’s providing. Just until we feel safe about stopping.”

Ólöf also believes that the traffic lights at intersections along Hringbraut should be adjusted so that all traffic comes to a stop when the walk sign is green.

Margrét Einarsdóttir, the principal of Vesturbæjarskóli elementary school, also came out to monitor traffic along Hringbraut this morning. “Everything went well this morning and there was also a police officer on site…But of course this issue needs to be examined more closely – [traffic] speed, etc. And we’ve been doing that for a number of years – that’s not lacking.”

School Lacked Funding for Crossing Guard

Crossing guard duty in the area is actually under the purview of a school employee. But although the school had previously received requests for a crossing guard at Hringbraut and Meistaravellir, Margrét says that the city had not provided funding for this until the accident occurred on Wednesday. She says that local residents have been complaining about traffic conditions along Hringbraut for many years.

A working group led by the City of Reykjavík’s Environment and Planning Committee did in fact publish a report in January 2017 which proposed, among other things, that the speed of traffic west of Kringlumýrarbraut be lowered by 10 km/hr in two areas where the current speed limit is 50-60km/h (31-37mi/h). It was also suggested that pedestrian paths along streets where the speed limit is 40-50km/h (25-31mi/h), such as the section of Hringbraut where the child was hit, be raised and more clearly marked.

Police will hold a meeting with residents next week to discuss traffic along Hringbraut.

Year-Round Pedestrian Zones Approved in Reykjavík

Reykjavík walking district laugavegur

Laugavegur and Bankastræti streets in central Reykjavík will now be pedestrian-only streets year-round, RÚV reports. Reykjavík City Council approved a motion for the change yesterday, which also extends to streets in the Kvosin neighbourhood which are categorised as pedestrian streets.

In a post on social media, Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson stated that the motion was passed with no votes against.

Visitors and residents of Reykjavík can now look forward to a redesign of the streets which will take into account the safety and well-being of pedestrians. The motion stated that a redesign will be developed in close consultation with users and relevant stakeholders, guided by principles of accessibility for all. The city’s Environmental and Planning Department will be charged with developing efficient and safe methods of cargo delivery in collaboration with businesses and other stakeholders in the affected zones.

Laugavegur and Bankastræti were previously closed to vehicles between May 1 and October 1.

Reykjavík Residents Support Pedestrian Streets

The majority of Reykjavík residents have a positive opinion of pedestrian-only streets in the city centre, Kjarninn reports. The data is from a recent opinion poll conducted by Maskína for the City of Reykjavík.

Overall, 71% of residents say they have a positive opinion of pedestrian streets while 11% say their opinion is negative. Unsurprisingly, the more often residents visit pedestrian streets, the happier they report being with the initiative.

Laugavegur, Bankastræti, Skólavorðustígur, and Austurstræti are just a few of the streets in Reykjavík’s downtown core which are converted into pedestrian-only zones between May 1 and October 1 every year. A quarter of residents said they wanted the zones to be pedestrian-only year-round, more than double the number in a poll conducted last year.