• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
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

Ann Törnkvist · 20 Feb 2014, 10:20

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. 
 
 
Story continues below…
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
Swedish premier pledges 5,000 'emergency' jobs
Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, speaking in Gothenburg. Photo: TT

Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, speaking in Gothenburg, announced a initiative to create 5,000 new 'emergency' jobs for new arrivals to the country.

Sweden's king celebrates 70th birthday
King Carl XVI Gustaf joins in with a rendition of All You Need Is Love with the Tensta Gospel Choir and their leader Cedwin Sandanam. Photo: TT

But Norwegian royals stay at home after deadly helicopter crash.

'Disgusted' Swedish boxer retains world crown
Badou Jack (right) catches Lucian Bute with a right-hand. Photo: TT

Badou Jack drew bout but kept World Boxing Council title.

PLO seeks apology over Sweden Eurovision flag ban
Sweden was the first EU member state in Western Europe to officially recognise the State of Palestine. Photo: TT

First it was the Basques...

Brussels attacks
Swedish terror suspect 'dumped bomb in toilet'
Osama Krayem. Photo: Facebook

Belgian media report that Osama Krayem tried to dispose of the explosives before carrying them onto the Brussels metro system.

Eurovision 2016
Regional politicians hit out at Sweden's Eurovision flag ban
Lots of flag-waving at Eurovision. Photo: AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson

Spanish politicians have criticized Swedish Eurovision organizers after a regional flag was banned alongside that of Isis from the competition in Stockholm.

Eight charged over shooting at Gothenburg restaurant
People leaving flowers at the scene of the fatal shooting last year. Photo: TT

The attack last spring left two people dead in one of the most high-profile shootings in Sweden in recent years.

Swedes want answers from Russia after Nato warning
Russian T-14 Armata tanks make their way to Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in May. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

UPDATED: What exactly does Russia's foreign minister mean when he says his country will "take action" if Sweden joins Nato?

Two historic shipwrecks found right in central Stockholm
Divers looking for a ship in central Stockholm. Photo: Anders P Näsberg/Statens maritima museer

Another two shipwrecks dating back to at least the 1600s have been found in central Stockholm.

Alicia Vikander scoops lead role in new Tomb Raider
Alicia Vikander poses at the Scandinavian terrace during the 68th Cannes film festival last May. Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet/AFP

The next Lara Croft will be a Swede.

Sponsored Article
Kista: The best office space in Sweden?
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why international researchers love to call Malmö home
National
INTERVIEW: Swedish police officer 'beat me up and used racial slurs'
Gallery
People-watching: April 27th
Blog updates

29 April

Editor’s blog, April 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Relations between Sweden and Russia went from slightly strained to full-on James Bond this…" READ »

 

18 April

A day as a guard (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Life as an Ambassador. Driven around in the Jaguar. Visits all planned so you go straight…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘Life in Stockholm’s suburbs is better than people realize’
National
Öresund bridge border checks net record number of drink drivers
Sponsored Article
'A huge waste of resources': how to fix integration
National
Swedes bid farewell to iconic Volvo
Gallery
Property of the week: Enköping
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd-24th
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
Politics
Could Brits in Europe stop Brexit?
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
The first official picture of Sweden's new royal Prince Alexander
National
Sweden's Sami reindeer still live in the shadow of Chernobyl
Sponsored Article
Sigtunaskolan: 'The best of what Sweden has to offer'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 20th
Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
National
Why was a Nazi flag hoisted in a Swedish town on Hitler's birthday?
National
How did Sweden's deputy PM get in trouble over New York comments?
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 16th-17th
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
Culture
Sweden finally axes historic dancing ban
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
International
Have you phoned Sweden yet?
Sponsored Article
'Swedes must realize only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 13th
National
Is booze going up in Sweden?
National
How Sweden's fake 'smombie' traffic sign is being used for real
Culture
Sweden's Tarzan drops trousers
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 9th-10th
Sport
Zlatan wants to be new 'Rambo'
National
Swedes in a huff about giant TV penis
3,230
jobs available
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