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Kuopio launches Finland's first fleet of electric city bikes

Shared city bikes are spreading quickly around Finland, with several new programmes due out this summer.

Opiskelijat Ville Simola ja Aku Kukkola sähköavusteisten kaupunkipyörien kanssa.
University students Ville Simola and Aku Kukkola were all smiles during their sneak preview of the e-bikes. Image: Antti Karhunen / Yle

The eastern city of Kuopio is the first in Finland to launch a fleet of electric-assist city bicycles.

Czech bike sharing firm Homeport has delivered 170 bright-yellow dockless e-bikes to the city. As of 1 May, 150 of them will become available for public use, with 20 to be kept in reserve.

Some locals have already had a chance to test the shared bikes before the official start of the pogramme and initial reviews have been glowing. Students say the two-wheelers are ideal for getting around in the hilly city, especially between the city centre and the university campus in Savilahti.

Users of the 37-kilo bikes get an extra boost from the electric motor as needed, up to a maximum speed of 25 km per hour.

Using the bike requires the use of a smartphone app. It shows where bikes are available and makes them impossible to use illegally.

Demand may outstrip supply

The basic bike usage fee is five euros a day, 10 per week, 20 per month or 50 euros for the season until the end of October. As with Helsinki's city bikes, that covers rides of up to 30 minutes, with an extra fee for longer stints.

There will be 10 permanent docking stations as well as 10 more "virtual stations". A local firm is to ensure that the bicycles' batteries are always charged up.

"We expect each bike to be used an average of 2.5 times a day, with revenues of 40,000-50,000 euros annually. However lots of people have been asking about them, so usage may be higher," says city project manager Jouni Huhtinen.

Officials are slightly worried about high demand for the bikes once they are launched on May Day, as there are just 150 bikes and 120,000 residents in Kuopio, not to mention visitors.

Vantaa, Oulu and Lappeenranta getting in gear

Shared city bikes have proliferated in the past couple of years around Finland, with the largest programme expanding this year in Helsinki and neighbouring Espoo, along with a separate system on its way in nearby Vantaa this summer. This year city bikes have competition from electric scooters in the capital.

Lappeenranta and Oulu are also among those rolling out bicycle fleets. Turku in the southwest is so far the only city to offer bikes all year round.

Another eastern city, Kajaani, tested a couple of electric city bikes last summer, but Kuopio's is the first large-scale programme featuring e-bikes.

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