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HS: Anarchists remove Helsinki city bike ads in anti-commercialism protest

A group that characterises themselves as anarchists claimed responsibility for vandalising and removing sponsored advert logos of the grocery store chain Alepa from a number of Helsinki's city bikes. The local public transport authority says this was the first time the bright yellow bikes had been vandalised in any way, according to newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

File photo of a fleet of new Helsinki's city bikes on displayin May 2016. Image: Kimmo Brandt / AOP

Over the past two years, Helsinki's city bikes have become a common sight on streets during summertime, but not everyone appears to be happy about their appearance.

One group evidently took issue with the bright red Alepa grocery store chain logos plastered on them. Alepa, which is part of the S-Group retail cooperative, makes it no secret that they support the city bike project in exchange for ad space.

Someone posted a blurry photo of at least eight city bikes with the Alepa logos removed from them, on the grass-roots website takku.net on Monday.

Anti-commercialism protest

The post's headline reads "we cleaned up a city bike station from ads in Helsinki."

The post said the logos weren't removed because the logos were distasteful, but because they wanted to "remove the entire urban landscape from all commercial advertisements."

The takku.net group calls itself a "do-it-yourself media project, that aims, with the power of words, to encourage unmediated and autonomous revolt against the present (self)destructive (un)reality, independently from parties, unions, and NGOs."

HKL: Ads to be replaced

HKL's head of service development and communications, Elina Norrena, told Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Tuesday that it is still unknown how many of the bikes were vandalised and that this was the first time the bikes had been damaged in any way.

She said CityBike Finland - the firm which services and maintains Helsinki's 1,400 bicycles across the city every day - would replace the ads.

The city bike service has been running in Helsinki for the past two years and this year grew in size significantly. The idea that the city bikes would be financed with help from an advertising sponsor raised the ire of some members of the public already last year.

Economically unviable without ads

At the time HKL's managing director Ville Lehmukoski said that the city bike system would not be able to run without ad revenue, saying that adverts and sponsors funded about half of the costs of the city bike programme, according to the paper.

Helsinki's city bike programme started in May 2016, and the number of bikes nearly tripled to 1,400 this summer.

On Tuesday HKL announced that use of the bikes had hit a record high, saying that the bikes have made one million trips this season, with an average of 9.7 rides per bike per day. The transport authority said the bike programme has some 33,000 registered users and brought the city some 860,000 euros in revenue.