City dwellers know the worst part about commuting via bike is the dearth of secure places to stow your ride. Some municipalities, like New York City, are introducing bike share programs that partially address issues of theft and space, but nothing compares to Japan’s genius approach to the problem: robotic underground bicycle garages.
It’s called ECO-Cycle, and according to its developer, Giken Ltd., it can store up to 204 bikes 11 meters underground. Best of all? Stashing your cycle takes only about 13 seconds. Oh, and the garage is also “anti-seismic” (code for earth-quake resistant) because if you’re going to build a robo-parking lot, you might as well not do things half way.
Access to the system isn’t free, but it’s much more affordable than getting your bicycle stolen. A month-long membership costs 2,600 yen, about $26, and students receive a fifty-percent discount. Members will then receive an RFID card which they use to insert and retrieve their bikes.
While cyclists everywhere are probably chomping at the bit for such a convenient parking solution, ECO-Cycle is especially necessary in Tokyo because of the city’s lack of available space and its heavily used public transit system. According to Gizmodo, 90 percent of the city’s 13.1 million residents commute to work by rail each day, and a third of them ride their bike to and from the train station. That’s a lot of bikes, and nowhere to put them. That is, except underneath the sidewalk.