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Reykjavík One of Europe’s Most Car-Dependent Cities

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Reykjavík One of Europe’s Most Car-Dependent Cities

Roundabout rush hour

Photo: Jóhannes Benediktsson

In total about 83 percent of Reykjavík residents drive to work, while less than 25 percent use public transportation, according to a recent Eurostat report. Stundin reported first. Reykjavík, Iceland, and Nicosia, Cyprus, are the only two European capitals where more than 75 percent of commuters drive to work. Reykjavik, Nicosia, and Valletta, Malta are also the only capitals where less than a quarter commute by public transit. Notably, all three are capitals of island countries.

Reykjavík does not compare favourably to Scandinavian capitals when it comes to car commuters: in Oslo, Norway, 38 percent drive to work, while in Copenhagen the figure is 27 percent, and in Stockholm only 23 percent.

In an analysis of the statistics, Citylab suggests that “central Reykjavík’s location on a narrow peninsula has encouraged a surprisingly wasteful, sprawling layout for such a small city.” Björn Teitsson, chairman of the Icelandic Association for a Car-Free Lifestyle, does not agree that Reykjavík’s geography is to blame for the high number of car commuters. “It was absolutely willingly done to make Reykjavík a car city and it was a political decision, not a kind of reaction to the geographical location,” he says. According to Stundin, the 1960s marked a change in Reykjavík’s urban development, where many suburbs sprung up around the formerly dense and well-organized city, leading to car dependency among residents.

“We can do much better and we have to invest in infrastructure for cycling and invest soundly in public transportation[…]This will provide clear and undisputable benefits for urban residents as they can save time, as well as resources, and increase their quality of life when they use public transit.”

Reykjavík has plans for a light rail network, though it is still in the early planning stages.

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