• Sweden's news in English
 
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
Sweden seeks ban on foreign booze advertising
File photo: Shutterstock.

Sweden seeks ban on foreign booze advertising

Two powerful Swedish lobby groups have turned to the European Commission to try and get a complete ban on alcohol advertising on television, after it emerged some channels were dodging the ban by being registered abroad. READ  

Minecraft creator beats Beyonce in mansion bid
Markus Persson created hit game Minecraft. Photo: TT

Minecraft creator beats Beyonce in mansion bid

UPDATED: Swedish billionaire Markus Persson is reported to have outbid the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce with his half billion kronor offer ($70 million) for a 2,000-square-metre Beverly Hills mansion. READ  

Accelerated for Ice Music
Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes
A scene from a 2014 Ice Music concert in Luleå. Photo: Graeme Richardson/Swedish Lapland

Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes

The world's "coolest concert" is set for a Texas twist in 2015 when Luleå's innovative Ice Music welcomes American musical talent from Austin, home of the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival. READ  

Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine
Princess Madeleine at the previous Nobel banquet. Photo: TT

Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine

UPDATED: Sweden's Royal Court has announced that Princess Madeleine is pregnant with the second child of her financier husband Chris O'Neill. READ  

Video
Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas
Tom says he is a big fan of the food. Photo: The Local

Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas

What's the best thing about Christmas in Sweden? The worst? And perhaps most importantly, the tastiest? The Local's Paul O'Mahony hits the Old Town's Christmas market as the first snow of the season falls to find out more. READ  

Swedish 'butcher' murderer gets 16 years
Forensic experts examine the scene where the victim's body was dumped in Askersund. Photo: Pavel Koubek/TT

Swedish 'butcher' murderer gets 16 years

A Swedish woman who killed and then hacked up a female love rival has been sentenced to 16 years in prison and also ordered to pay damages to the victim's family. READ  

Bildt works as babysitter on Swedish reality show
Carl Bildt. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

Bildt works as babysitter on Swedish reality show

Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has been given a cautious thumbs up for his child-minding abilities after appearing on a Swedish Celebrity Babysitter show. READ  

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish Christmas ham
The traditional Christmas ham. Photo: Max Holmberg/Flickr

How to make Swedish Christmas ham

Every year Swedes devour the Christmas ham - or julskinka - with relish, with an estimated 7,000 tonnes sold annually. But just how do you prepare this succulent delight? Fear no more as The Local finds out. READ  

Ikea packs up furniture sales in Russia

Ikea packs up furniture sales in Russia

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has called a temporary halt on sales of its kitchen furniture and appliances in Russia as it couldn't cope with the extra demand brought on by the fall in the Russian rouble. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 18th to 25th
National
'Unprecedented' Russian activity: Armed Forces
Society
Interview: The Local chats with Melinda Gates
Society
VIDEO: Stockholmers try out some Swedish tongue twisters
Society
Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå
Blog updates

19 December

Editor’s Blog, December 19th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Father Time has taken another week from us, but never fear – good old Father..." READ »

 

17 December

An Exclusive Interview with Melinda Gates (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"This week Nobel peace Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi urged the world to “globalize compassion”, as he..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Inside Sweden's first 'light therapy' school
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: December 17th
Estelle through the years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Society
Why are there so many 100-year-olds in one Swedish town?
Society
Is it time to better celebrate Sweden's diverse identity?
Gallery
Property of the week: Huddinge
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
CATCH UP: Russian plane in Baltic near-miss drama
Lifestyle
How my compass drew me to Sweden
National
The man whose memory you need to remember
Gallery
People-watching: December 13th - 14th
Sponsored Article
How to get your own office anywhere in the world
Politics
'Our party will stand alone': Stefan Löfven
Society
The Local chats to Ruben Östlund, director of Golden Globe nominated Force Majeure
Lifestyle
Ten things to know before a Swedish party
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 12th to 19th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The 2014 Nobel Banquet
National
The Local's guide to the Nobel Prizes 2014
Education
Introducing... Education in Stockholm
Society
The Swedish Christmas market with a twist
Lifestyle
Why do so many Swedes have tattoos?
Society
Get 20% off Swedish Christmas decorations
National
Dewani family: We only heard half the story
Business & Money
Business in Stockholm: 'efficiency is money'
Gallery
Property of the week: Östermalm
National
Meet the Swedes hosting festive feasts for 'lonely' guests
Gallery
TIMELINE: Swedish honeymoon killing murder trial
Gallery
People-watching: December 7th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: What's it like to fly planes in Sweden?
National
Submarine hunters 'robbed' of reward cash
National
The Local's Countdown to Christmas
National
'Dangerous' USB charger recalled in Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's King and Queen wrap up France tour
National
Analysis: Should Snowden get asylum in Sweden?
National
Swedish schoolboy in female saint role row
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's political crisis unfolds
Gallery
People-watching: December 3rd
National
What happened to Sweden's ice bucket cash?
Lifestyle
Top Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
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

810
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
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.
Details and how to apply
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options