From Iceland — Air Pollution Warning In Reykjavík Prompts Criticism Of Drivers

Air Pollution Warning In Reykjavík Prompts Criticism Of Drivers

Published March 9, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

After yet another warning to stay indoors due to high levels of air pollution, many Icelanders have turned their criticism to Reykjavík’s car drivers.

Yesterday, RÚV reported that levels of air pollution in Reykjavík had once again exceeded safe levels. This pollution, comprised of dust and high levels of carbon dioxide, is a direct result of car traffic. In response, the City of Reykjavík advised that children and those with respiratory conditions avoid being outside, especially near major roads.

While this is far from the first time the city has issued such a warning, many Icelanders have now questioned putting the responsibility on pedestrians to stay indoors, as opposed to asking car owners to reduce their driving.

Jon K. Agustsson, a planning expert for Reykjavík, raised some troubling statistics about the matter on Twitter:

“Over 800,000 [car] trips per day are killing me, you, our parents and our children. No party running [for city council] is offering plans of action to reduce this increase, and after a few years it will be 1 million trips per day, killing me, you, our parents and our children.”

Numerous Icelanders have offered similar sentiments across Facebook, questioning the wisdom of telling people to stay indoors. As Hildur Knútsdóttir put it:

“Crazy recommendation of the day: pedestrians are told not to be outdoors on a sunny day due to pollution, instead of telling drivers who cause pollution not to drive.”

This topic is especially heated in the run-up to this May’s city council elections. While numerous parties support a long-term project called Borgarlínan, a mass transit system designed to ease traffic and reduce pollution, the Independence Party is against the idea, seeing it as an attack on car owners.

Air pollution in Reykjavík is a regular problem, especially on days when the winds are light. Not only are Icelanders very fond of cars, but the increase in tourism brings with it increased traffic, as more rental cars are added to the daily traffic fleet.

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