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Helsinki police set up 'bike cop' unit

The new unit will monitor the city's increasing number of electric scooters, bicycles and electric bikes for violations.

Electric scooter injuries are on the rise in the capital. Image: Dmytro Zinkevych / AOP

This month police throughout Finland are stepping up surveillance of cyclists, issuing warnings or fines of up to 40 euros to those without proper lights and reflectors as the dark time of year gets underway.

Helsinki Police Department is going one step further, setting up a new unit to intensify the monitoring of 'light traffic' starting this month, amid a rapid rise in the number of electric scooters, bicycles and electric bikes on the streets of the capital.

The new control unit will consist of five police officers.

"The objective is to improve the safety of 'light traffic' and to reduce accidents," Superintendent Jarkko Lehtinen of the Helsinki Police Department said in a statement.

To this end, thousands of reflectors and bicycle-or chest-mounted lamps have been ordered to be distributed to citizens as the darkest season approaches, according to officials.

The unit is currently figuring out its own transport method for monitoring bike traffic.

"We are starting out with bicycles in the autumn, but we are considering the introduction of electronic vehicles for the group," Lehtinen said.

This week, unit members will receive training in bicycle policing and 'light traffic' control and the actual monitoring will begin early next week, officials said.

Electric scooter injuries on the rise

According to police statistics, there have been three fewer deaths and 25 fewer injuries this year compared to the average for the last five years. However, compared to 2018, the number of injured has increased.

“For example, electric scooter users in Helsinki are regularly hospitalised, with some accidents even leading to major injuries. However, police statistics reflect only a fraction of traffic injuries, as not all incidents are brought to our attention. There is no statistical information on the number of incidents,” Lehtinen said.

Police said that when it comes to newer electronic vehicles, not many are following the rules.

"For example, there is a lack of a safety culture among electric scooter users when it comes to wearing helmets, choosing the right lanes or travelling at the right speeds. While electric vehicles are the future of emission-free transport, this must not come at the expense of traffic rules or safety. We’ve observed and received feedback that people are riding scooters on the sidewalk at a very high speed. Not only is it forbidden, it is also a big risk to the riders and everyone else on the street." Lehtinen added.