Tuesday, April 22, 2008

4 Japanese Automated Bicycle Parking System

The Problem : Tokyo is an overcrowded city, with 15 million bicycles registered to Tokyo's 30 million residents. Land is expensive. Bicycles here are only the first link in the long commuting chain from home to work by rail. Bicycles also tend to be parked illegally because there is almost no railway owned bicycle parking. These bicycles are then raided and confiscated by officers, and a fine of almost 20 dollars or more is incurred to get it back. The density of bicycles parked on sidewalks or roadsides severely hinder road traffic and pedestrians.

An Engineering Solution : The railways and subways realized they have a duty to provide parking for their customers using the bicycle as the first mode of access. Nishi-Kasai Station in Edogawa now boasts something thats easily the first of its kind - a huge multi-level bicycle parking tower that is fully automated. The system can store upto 9,400 bikes. There are similar facilities for cars and can be found in many places in Japan.

How It Works : Video Courtesy

It works almost like a jukebox. A customer places their bike on a small platform and presses a green button on the computer interface in front of him. An elevator door opens, a robotic gripper holds the bike and transports it vertically down to an underground parking garage for storage. For retrieval, a card is swiped against the terminal's reader and the system fetches the bicycle in about 22 seconds. A single use costs 100 yen (97 cents) or you can fill your card with a month's pass for 1800 Yen (17 dollars). [Japan Probe] I'm guessing the retrieval system might be bar code/RFID based system but anyone who knows the intricacies of operation can post a comment here based on his/her knowledge.

Views of the Underground Station : Video Courtesy

Will it Help?

This should help get rid of the bicycle clutter in the city. But the question now is will middle and low income families be ready to accept the additional costs per month and year just to go out and buy groceries or pick kids up from school? Surely its a more cheaper and society friendly option than having to get back confiscated bikes, or having a generally messy looking city.

Technological questions in my mind are : Does the system recognize a bicycle when the elevator doors open? What if a human or another object accidentally slides in? Is the facility shut down in times of maintenance and what happens if you happen to have a bike stored inside at that time? Could it be possible to retrieve a bicycle from any of the multiple computer terminals? Is damage insured? Etc...etc. If you can think of any, throw them out here in the comments.

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  1. I have seen large bike parking areas at several train stations in Japan. When I say large I mean LARGE. The Japanese public transportation systems is incredible. All they have to do is get to the train station.

  2. I would pay the 97 cents just to watch this live!

  3. Hi. Please join the Bicycle to Work! LinkedIn networking group. Members pledge that they will try to ride their bicycle to work or on an errand at least once a week. Although the benefits should be obvious, let me outline them here.
    Right now people in the industrialized world are facing two very grave problems: obesity and a growing scarcity of oil. Compounding this problem is the new food shortage brought about, in part, by the conversion of food cropland to bio-fuel crop production. Most people feel powerless to help, but there is one thing that we can do. Ride our bicycles to work.
    If everyone would agree to ride their bikes to work one day per week we could cut oil consumption by as much as 10-15%. No one would argue that riding a bike burns more calories than driving the car. Although popular politically right now, most bio-fuels consume more energy than they produce. We would be much better to eat those bio-crops then use our own energy to transport us around.
    So spread the word. Make it a movement! Bicycle to work one day a week and do your part to cut back obesity and the overuse of oil and precious cropland.
    Just go to my profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreylstevenson and you can click on the group to be included. While you are there, don't forget to ask to link to my network of more than 7,000.000 like-minded professionals. I accept all invitations and look forward to meeting you.

  4. Jeff I'll check that out. Thanks!

    Sprocket, I feel the same here.

    Chris, the Japanese are ridiculous.I've obviously never been there but it must be a post-modern technological Utopia.


Thank you. I read every single comment.