Remember Volkswagen’s car parking towers in Germany? Recently, a Czech bicycle importer installed a similar automated parking tower for bicycles at a railway station in the city of Hradec Kralove. The importer Velo, which imports cycles from Taiwan, has co-funded the building of a glass walled automated cycle parking tower. Users pay for their parking via a ticket machine, which enables access and retrieval of the bicycle. The tower can hold up to 117 bicycles on seven tiers.
The mechanical aspect of the system consists of a central unit with cushioned aluminium paddles resembling human hands that hold the bike’s front wheel into its mounting cradle. The unit can turn 360º degrees and ascend to place the bike into a bay. The retrieval time is around 30 seconds. The system allows bikes to be parked with all its accessories, even allowing a cycle helmet to be left on the handlebars.
Robotized cycle parking systems are not unusual across Asia, where space is at a premium. In Tokyo, for example, there is an automated facility consisting of two underground silos that hold 144 cycles each. The parking towers has been in operation since 2008. Robotic parking has been used in some European countries such as Switzerland. Carousel cycle systems have also been tried in the Netherlands. But one of the main drawbacks to these systems is the length of stacking and retrieval times of around 45 seconds, said Daniel Mourek, the European Cyclists’ Federation vice president. This has tended to put off users. In addition the automated system is costlier than more high-density basic cycle parking.
The underground cycle parking console in Tokyo. Photos from dannychoo.com