Daily Archives: February 26, 2010

Where bicycles hang in trees

A bicycle tree in Switzerland

A perennial problem for American bicycle computers is what to do with the bike once they get to work.
Sidewalk bike racks, if available, are exposed to the weather and vulnerable to determined thieves. Employers might not be so accommodating as was mine, which raised no objection to me parking my bike beside my desk when I was riding to work about three times a week. And, generally, U.S. employers have been slow to provide amenities for employees who ride their bikes to work — secure bike storage, showers, lockers.
One of my sons, who lives in Taipei, Taiwan, and has traveled extensively in Asia and elsewhere, called to my attention some novel ways of storing commuters’ bikes in other countries.

Bicycles at train station in a Tokyo neighborhood where a son used to live

One of the most ingenious and elaborate was invented by the Japanese steel company JFE. It’s a fully automated bike storage system somewhat like those mechanical devices at dry cleaning shops that whisk your newly cleaned clothing to the counter from the innards of the establishment.
In Tokyo, cyclists pay a montlhy fee to use the JFE bike garages, which began operating in 2007 and are spreading throughout the metropolis.
The bikes are registered and provided with electronic tags. When a cyclist places the bike’s wheels into a groove, a computer reads the owner’s information on the tag and mechanical arms pull the bike into a cylindrical well to take it to the storage racks. To retrieve the bike, the owner swipes a card and the system plucks the bike from the racks and brings it back to the owner within about 30 seconds.
Some of the Japanese bike garages hold several hundred bikes; others can store more than 6,000.
A similar system, called the “bike tree,” operates in Geneva, Switzerland. A cyclist swipes a smart card at a bike tree on the street and places the bike’s front wheel onto a hook. It is then hoisted up the “trunk” of the tree into a dome that protects it from the weather and from thieves. And the bike tree operates on solar power.
Check out the videos below:


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