• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

An EU public opinion poll released on Friday revealed that Sweden is the only nation which thinks the environment should be a top priority for the union. READ  

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
File photo: TT

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'

Police in Gothenburg have confirmed that sex trafficking in the city has developed into a full-blown slave trade - but that they lack the resources to do anything about it. READ  

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution
Photo: TT/The Missionary Church of Kopimism

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution

Peter Sunde has complained that his religious rights have been impinged after he was refused permission to meet a representative of a church inspired by the keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste. READ  

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported
Police at the scene of the threat in June. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported

The 43-year-old man who threatened Stockholm's Gamla Stan with a bomb in June was sentenced on Friday to two years in jail, followed by deportation. READ  

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'
Swedish cops are unhappy with the heat. Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'

Swedish weather agencies say the summer's warmest day is yet to come, but police in the north have decided that they can't take the heat - and filed a report about the own stifling police station. READ  

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv
File photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv

SAS Scandinavian Airlines has resumed flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv after the airline completed a 'thorough security analysis' of the situation in Israel. READ  

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself
A Stockholm police car. File photo: TT

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself

A man and a woman, reported to be both 45-years-old, were found dead on Thursday in an apartment on Lidingö in Stockholm with police suspecting a murder and suicide. READ  

Police fear arson after Sweden mosque fire
Central Norrköping in eastern Sweden. Photo: Stefan Vilcans

Police fear arson after Sweden mosque fire

Swedish police suspect arson after buildings at a mosque in Norrköping in eastern Sweden burned down in the early hours of Friday morning. READ  

Opinion
'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

Caught in an identity limbo and surrounded by often apathetic "love refugees", The Local's resident Swedophile Solveig Rundquist wonders if she's the only expat who moved to Sweden for the culture alone. READ  

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets

Sweden's Prison and Probation Services are beginning a project in which suspected criminals will be given surf tablets to look at evidence against them. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Blog updates

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing 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

733
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:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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
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:
http://psdmedia.se