From Iceland — Rogue Merchants Opening Gates On Laugavegur

Rogue Merchants Opening Gates On Laugavegur

Published December 13, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Bobby Breiðholt

Some merchants on Laugavegur have been caught opening the gates intended to make Reykjavík’s main shopping street more pedestrian-oriented.

While Reykjavík City Council recently passed a measure to close Laugavegur to car traffic for the holiday season, not everyone with a shop on the street is particularly happy with the policy. Some, it seems, have taken matters into their own hands.

Graphic designer Bobby Breiðholt snapped a photo of the gates, which he said were opened by “certain merchants” who “came running with tools as soon as the gates were closed”. He added that opening these gates was an example of “disgusting stubbornness and overbearingness”.

A few minutes later, the gates were closed again.

In the ensuing comments in the Twitter exchange, the merchants known for doing this on more than one occasion are named by former Reykjavík city councilperson for the Independence Party Gísli Marteinn Baldursson, who added, “Ridiculous. I second name ‘n’ shame, but also want the city to defend the interests of city residents.”

Closing Laugavegur, whether for the summer or the holiday season, has been met with some opposition since the idea was first introduced in 2011, even though most merchants have been happy overall with the results.

In fact, the stretch of Laugavegur that is closed to cars – from Vatnstígur to Skólavörðustígur – only deprives the street of just 17 parking spaces. At the same time, foot traffic on Laugavegur increased in the summer of 2011 from about 9,000 per day to 14,000 per day. In addition, it has been recently pointed out that there are so many parking garages downtown that the longest anyone would have to walk from any given garage to Laugavegur is about 350 metres – about three minutes’ walk at a reasonable pace.

If you witness anyone opening the gates on Laugavegur, you can call the police to have the gates closed again without having to file a report or “name and shame” anyone. Or, if you have particularly good upper body strength, you can close them again yourself.

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