From Iceland — City Officials Discuss Closing Laugavegur To Motorists

City Officials Discuss Closing Laugavegur To Motorists

Published May 28, 2020

Sam O'Donnell
Photo by
Art Bicnick

City councilperson Vigdís Hauksdóttir is against closing part of Laugavegur to motorist traffic, and making a stretch of the road available for pedestrian traffic only. In an in an interview with Vísir, she said that closing the road in one fell swoop would result in a prolonged response time by police, ambulances, and fire fighters.

The Planning and Transport Council agreed on Wednesday to add temporary pedestrian paths, which will close down the following stretches of road: Laugavegur between Frakkastígur and Klapparstígur, Vatnsstígur between Laugavegur and Hverfisgata, and Bankastræti between Ingólfsstræti and Lækjargata. These closures will last from June 5th to October 1st, 2020.

This did not sit well with Vigdís, who said “It is a natural duty of every city council or local government majority in the country to first look after the safety of the residents, before embarking on any such arbitrary decisions that have such a widespread impact.” Her concern is especially for fires and armed robberies.

She went on to say that pedestrian streets where tables and chairs are spread out next to restaurants and pubs run counter to the goal of access for emergency services, such as police, firefighters, or ambulances. “Neither fire trucks nor ambulances have time to run ahead of these cars and remove obstacles that may be in their way…there is a lot of responsibility involved in closing Laugavegur in one stroke.”

City Councillor for the Reform Party Pawel Bartoszek disagrees with Vigdís. Taking to Facebook on Wednesday, he posted “Now my fellow City Council Member Vigdís Hauksdóttir does not want to make Laugavegur a pedestrian street due to a…drumroll…risk of fires and armed robberies! But what about enemy invaders? Why is nobody talking about this?”

He told Vísir that he was referring to Vigdís’ behaviour at a meeting of the Planning and Transportation Council yesterday. The meeting was aimed at increasing reaction time of responders in the event of fire, armed robbery, and health emergencies. Pawel said that the ones in charge of the proposal have been talking with police about the closures. This is how it has always been done.

Pawel pointed out that the debate on pedestrian streets is about more than providing access to first-responders. “If the street is closed to cars, people with small children, or just walking around, will feel better,” he said, adding that there is no reason to fear a fire, armed robbery, or anything else on the pedestrian streets of Reykjavík this summer.

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