Does the following scene sound familiar to you? You're travelling on the tunnelbana, or subway, enter the station, tap your travel card and walk through the turnstiles as they open… only to realize that another passenger has followed closely behind you, entering without needing to tap their own card.
In Swedish, there is a word for this phenomenon: att planka, which in English roughly translates to “committing fare evasion” or “trespassing” – to closely follow a person through a barrier, without the other person's knowledge and without paying the fee. It is most often used in the context of public transport but can also refer to any other paid event, such as a concert, sports match, or even a paid public toilet.
The expression has its origins in the noun ett plank, which means 'plank' or 'fence'. So the verb roughly means 'to climb over the fence (or barrier)', and it can be used to refer to people who literally jump the barrier as well as those who follow behind a paying passenger. The noun form is en plankning, while you can use the word en plankare to refer to someone who regularly dodges fares in this way.
Att planka means to avoid admission fees. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/TT
Plankning is illegal under Swedish law, although one Swedish organization Planka Nu (“fare-dodge now”) was set up to openly encourage fare-dodging passengers as part of their campaign towards free public transport. Their argument is that it isn't illegal to lose one's travel card, and members each pay a certain amount into the organization each month, which covers any fines if they are caught by inspectors or police.
In 2012, The Swedish Arts Council planned to financially support the project, a move strongly criticized by SL, the public transport organization in Stockholm.
SL vill höja böter för de som plankar
SL wants to increase fines for fare dodgers
Det är väldigt lätt att planka i Stockholm
It's really easy to fare dodge in Stockholm