• Sweden edition
 
Freeriders see progress in fight for fee-free public transit in Sweden
A freerider jumping over one of the old barriers, later replaced with glass partitions. File: Planka.nu

Freeriders see progress in fight for fee-free public transit in Sweden

Published: 19 Feb 2014 08:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 20 Feb 2014 10:20 GMT+01:00

 
It has been a year since the Estonians removed fees for public transport in Tallinn, and the move failed to spark anarchy on the city's buses and trains. The fear of ill-defined chaos, Stockholm freerider movement spokesman Christian Tengblad argues, is one reason not everyone wants a fee-free transport network in Stockholm. But he feels the debate has started to change.
 
"Because Tallinn is a neighbouring capital, it's become easier to talk about it," Tengblad tells The Local. He has been involved in the movement in Stockholm since it started in 2001, when left-leaning youth decided to create an insurance system for commuters who did not want to pay to ride the tube, commuter trains, or buses. For a 100-kronor ($15) fee per month, Planka.nu will step in and pay the 1,200-kronor fine that freeriders (plankare) face when they are caught. The "P-kassa", a derivative of the Swedish word for unemployment insurance or A-kassa, repays about 25 of its members a month.
 
Stopping the freeriders has been paramount to Stockholm County public transit operator SL for years, as evidenced by the investment in high glass barriers introduced at stations a few years ago. 
 
"People that didn't behave like the machines wanted them to, for example older people walking slowly, were in danger of what we called the 'squeeze barriers'," Tengblad recalls. 
 
 
The freeriders were far from the only people complaining about the swift and fitful glass partitions. In 2011, a dog called Diezel got stuck in one of the turnstiles. It took three people wielding tube cards to free him. By the following year, commuters testified to suffering bruised arms, expressing fears the new glass doors would cause bodily harm, prompting SL to talk to the doors' manufacturers
 
SL have since modified the glass barriers, which, Tengblad notes with an air of boyish schaudenfraude, means anyone can get through. 
 
"So not as many people are getting hurt any longer, but they don't work as barriers, so they've spent huge amounts of money on something that doesn't work," he says. 
 
While many Stockholmers united in fear of the glass barriers, not everyone enjoys having a freerider nip through in their wake. Linda, 34, was called an "old bitch" by a woman not much younger than her when she stopped the would-be freerider from following her. Other travellers seem to take a perverse pleasure in trapping the freeriders by slowing down once they are past the glass.
 
August, 21, once said to his ideologically driven older brother that it perhaps was not the most polite thing to do to glue your body to the back of an unsuspecting fellow commuter. The comment was not well received.
 
Yet Planka.nu emphasizes that freeriders should follow certain etiquette rules. Nor, Tengblad points out, does everyone dislike them. A few years ago, a bunch of non-freeriders who nonetheless support the movement made pins that stated "Freeride with me" - an easy invite to stick onto the back of your coat. 
 
 
While freeriders find both friends and foes on the ground, the ideological battle, says Tengblad, is instead fought at a higher level. He thinks fee-free public transport makes sense - it is simply far too expensive for many and the system can be financed through taxes. He argues that the Planka movement is much more practical and much less ideological than the ideas that have driven much of Sweden's transit system planning for the past six decades. 
 
 
He's talking, of course, of the car. 
 
"The car has been somewhat of a nationalist symbol," Tengblad says. "With Volvo and Saab it's been difficult to separate Sweden from its auto industry, and in that context it is difficult to question the car." 
 
Yet he sees progress across the country. The small town of Avesta in central Sweden has introduced free buses, for example, while politicians in Karlskoga in the south have analyzed the town's snow-removal patterns to modernize it after the modern-day needs of residents who may not necessarily be behind the wheel of a car.
 
In the capital, however, change has been more gradual. A decision on Södermalm island to clear one of the six car lanes on Götgatan and instead add a bicycle lane heralds positive change, Tengblad argues.
 
"They basically sat down and counted the number of cars and the number of bicycles during rush hour," Tengblad says. "Just a few years ago, if they'd shut down a car lane, people would have screamed bloody murder about 'car haters'."
 

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ibrahimovic returns as PSG claim top spot
Photo: TT

Ibrahimovic returns as PSG claim top spot

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start for two months as Ligue 1 Champions Paris Saint-Germain went top for the first time this season with a 3-2 win at mid-table Metz on Friday night READ  

Julian Assange
Ecuador 'guarantees' Assange asylum
Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. Screen grab: SVT

Ecuador 'guarantees' Assange asylum

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Friday guaranteed political asylum by Ecuador for "as long as necessary," one day after he lost an appeal against a Swedish warrant for his arrest. READ  

Abba's Björn defends Sweden's Spotify
Swedish artist Laleh alongside Björn Ulvaeus. Photo: Björn Ulvaeus

Abba's Björn defends Sweden's Spotify

Björn Ulvaeus has joined the row over Spotify's streaming costs, saying the music industry had to evolve but admitting that songwriters are losing money. He spoke to The Local's blogger Natalia Brzezinski from his newly adopted home, New York. READ  

Dark weekend looms for southern Sweden
Stockholm City Hall under the cover of clouds. Photo: TT

Dark weekend looms for southern Sweden

Southern Sweden looks set to stay under a blanket of cloud until at least Tuesday, as the darkest November in decades continues. READ  

Gothenburg rabbi reacts to death threats
Rabbi Hillel Ḥayyim Lavery-Yisraëli. Photo: Private

Gothenburg rabbi reacts to death threats

Gothenburg's rabbi received death threats following an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem earlier this week. Leading figures in the Jewish community have told The Local they fear that anti-Semitism is spreading across Sweden, with Malmö already a key target. READ  

Rush hour chaos after train signal failure
The signal failure is affecting the service between Södertälje and Stockholm. Photo: Thomas Eneborg/TT

Rush hour chaos after train signal failure

Passengers travelling to and from the Swedish capital were forced to make alternative travel arrangements on Friday morning after a signal failure ground the rail service between Södertälje and Stockholm to a standstill. READ  

Swedes' blonde only school photo goes viral
Student Patricia Spång Lundahl holds the sign 'Jimmie sent the rest home' in the protest school photo. Photo. Private

Swedes' blonde only school photo goes viral

A protest school photo by Swedish students to highlight the anti-immigration polices of the Sweden Democrats has generated a storm on social media. READ  

The Local's Countdown to Christmas
Decorating your home for Swedish Christmas
Swedish Christmas decorations on the tree. Photo: Imagebank Sweden

Decorating your home for Swedish Christmas

With Advent just a week away, Swedes are already itching to put out their Christmas decorations. Wondering how to get that Scandinavian Christmas feeling in your own home? Here are The Local's top ten decorating tips for a 'God Jul'. READ  

Israel ambassador to make Sweden return
Isaac Bachman, Israel's ambassador to Sweden. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Israel ambassador to make Sweden return

Isaac Bachman will come back to Stockholm on November 29th stating that it was a "compromise" when he was recalled to Israel following Sweden's decision to recognize Palestine. READ  

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish mulled wine
Swedish mulled wine served the traditional way. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

How to make Swedish mulled wine

Come colder days, Swedes rely on one drink in particular to warm them up again: glögg. The beverage has been a Christmas tradition in Sweden since the 1890s. The shops are already packed with the stuff, but why not make your own? John Duxbury shares his favourite recipe with The Local. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
What's on in Sweden: November 20th to 27th
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
Lifestyle
Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm
National
How to boost your career in Skåne, Sweden's south
Blog updates

21 November

Editor’s Blog, November 21st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello from Stockholm, Our week started with reports another Russian plane had been spotted in Sweden’s airspace,..." READ »

 

21 November

Exclusive Interview with Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"Most of us will agree that actions speak louder than words. But when the two are..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Bones show off Sweden's history
National
What new word are Swedes voting on?
National
Why African Swedes are angry about Santa's helper
National
Pine, tar, and tinder: flavours from the north
Gallery
Selfies, solidarity and Hillary Clinton: Stefan Löfven on tour
Gallery
People-watching: November 19th
Society
Why are international professionals leaving Sweden?
Business & Money
Meet the Swedes who made suits for The Hunger Games
Technology
'I'm among the first Swedes with a microchip'
National
What is Sweden doing about bird flu?
Gallery
Property of the week: Eriksberg
National
Vecka45: Sweden's most innovative week
Gallery
In Pictures: The clubs and loves of Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson
Society
What's On in Sweden: November 13th to 20th
Gallery
People-watching: November 16th
National
Driving (expats) home for Christmas?
Lifestyle
Make your own Swedish pea soup
Politics
"Totally unacceptable": Defence Minister on Stockholm submarine
Society
The A-Ö guide to making life in Sweden easier
National
How a Swedish party inspired a masterpiece
National
Seen the new Ace of Base yet?
National
Meet the Irish woman thundering into Swedish rock
Gallery
In Pictures: Ace of Base through the years
Society
Ten things you should never say to a Swede
Gallery
People-watching: November 12th
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
Opinion: 'We have to talk about Sweden's Isis fighters'
Business & Money
Price hike for new mortgages in Sweden
National
Toy store catalogues 'too white' in Sweden
National
Pirate Bay co-founder released from prison
National
Southern Sweden had 201 days of summer
Gallery
Sweden's ten most powerful people
Gallery
Property of the week: Mariestad
National
Introducing... Healthcare in Stockholm
National
What you need to know about Stockholm hospital bug epidemic
Lifestyle
Young Serbian shouts for students in Sweden
Lifestyle
How to make your own chocolate kladdkaka
Gallery
People-watching: November 9th
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: November 7th - 14th
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

853
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
aa-europe.org/sweden
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description