I was watching the trailer to Danny Choo’s TV show, Culture Japan, when something caught my eye. About a minute into the video, Danny loads his bike into a door, then a mechanical arms snatches it up and sorts it into a giant, vertical rack of bicycles.
I did a double take when I first saw that and had to re-watch it a couple of times. What is that thing?
Turns out, this mechanical monstrosity is named the Eco Cycle. It’s built by a Japanese company called Giken, whose biggest claim to fame is designing a pile driver that doesn’t cause the ground to vibrate or shake; think of it as the mechanical equivalent of those foam mattress commercials.
Eco Cycle is a giant underground bunker dug 55 feet (17 meters) deep into the ground, with a mechanical arm and sorting system.
Once you’ve paid for your parking and pushed your bike into the bay, Eco Cycle gives you a card so you can come back and get your bike later. Pretty slick!
Space is obviously at a premium in urban areas; and if there’s one city in the world that’s notorious for being short on space, it’s Tokyo. With 32 million people living in the city and surrounding regions, Tokyo is the most populated metropolitan area in the world.
Bearing that in mind, going underground makes a lot of sense. People tend to want to live and work above ground, so subterranean real estate is a lot more accessible and cheap to obtain.
Japan is known for its low crime rate, but there’s always a risk of having your bicycle stolen. And storing your bike in a giant underground robot bike factory is a safer than chaining your bike in front of a konbini.
Plus, if you’ve ever used your bike to commute, then you know how much of a pain it is to park your bike outside, then come back later to have the seat drenched by rain. This Eco Cycle fixes that, too by keeping your bike nice and dry underground.
For a better explanation of how it works and an inside view of Eco Cycle, check out this video from the NHK:
Tofugu’s based in Portland, OR, so we see some pretty strange, customized bicycles around here. Given what some of these bikes look like: