Tokyo is such a crowded place that even finding a place to park your bicycle can be a daunting task. But leave it to the Japanese to find a genius solution to this growing space problem. The ECO-Cycle Park is an automated bicycle storage system buried 11 meters under the city streets that can hold up to 200 bikes.
Although Japan is one of the world’s leading car manufacturers and its public transportation system is probably the most advanced on the planet, the bicycle is still a very popular means of getting around in the busy traffic. Unfortunately parking spaces are at a premium, and owners are often forced to leave them on the sidewalk where they become obstacles for pedestrians. To solve this problem, Japanese company Giken Seisakusho, which specializes in tidal and flood protection systems, created ECO-Cycle, a series of five underground storage bicycle storage facilities where owners can safely “park” their bikes in just 8 seconds. The buried cylindrical structures are only seven meters wide, but deep enough to safely store up to 200 two-wheel vehicles each.
Photo: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bicycle riders have to pay a monthly subscription to gain access to ECO-Cycle, and they are issued a personal card. Whenever they want to park their bikes, all they have to do is position them in front of one of the above-ground booths and swipe their card through a reader. A mechanical arm clamps it in place, the booth door opens and the bike disappears underground. The whole process takes just 8 seconds, and retrieving the vehicle is just as fast. Ever since the solution was implemented in Konan Hoshi No Koen Park, in 2010, illegally parked bicycles have mostly disappeared from the area.
“Steel boards are inserted into the ground to create a cylindrical shape, and the soil inside is then removed. We can do this in only two months,” Shotaro Yano, head of the Giken’s underground development division, says about the advantages of ECO-Cycle. “As soil pressure is evenly distributed (thanks to the cylindrical shape), the parking facility is reasonably earthquake resistant. As a carrier device is placed in the center, the distance the bikes have to be moved is minimized.” The construction of an underground bicycle storage unit costs 150 million yen ($1,5 million). Including those under construction, there are currently 43 ECO-Cycle facilities at 16 locations across Japan.
Photo: Danny Choo