From Rotterdam to Tokyo: the world's most hi-tech cycle parks

Businesses and cities are installing state of the art parking facilities for the swelling ranks of cyclists, but will they pay to park?

For all those cyclists who leave their bike at the station only to spend the rest of the day worrying it will be stolen or vandalised, there may be hope in the form of a German-designed tower.

“When you get to a train station these days, you see 150 metres of bikes. We need much more compact solutions,” says Nick Child, managing director of Cardok, which will distribute the Radhaus tower in Britain. (Radhaus is a pun on the German word Rad, which means bicycle, and Rathaus, which means city hall.) “We need much more compact solutions.”

The Radhaus bike tower is 10.5 metres high but occupies a relatively small surface area of 55 square metres. Able to hold up to 120 bikes, it features individual parking boxes accessible by a chip card. The tower, which can be accessed by 12 cyclists at the same time, has three storeys and is a modular design that can be assembled within 2-3 weeks.

Cycle Hoop
Cycle Hoop’s Bike Hangar. Photograph: Cycle Hoop

Cardok is not only in discussions with railway companies, it’s also targeting housing developments and office blocks (“think how popular it would be in Canary Wharf”, Child says). The plan is to charge cyclists £2-£3 a day to use the facility, with discounts for season ticket holders. The first Radhaus tower has been installed outside the ICE train station in the German city of Erfurt.

Businesses across the world are creating equally innovative solutions for cyclists in cities. London design firm Cycle Hoop has worked with several dozen local councils to convert existing street furniture into bike parking. It also makes the Bike Port, which allows 10 bikes to park in one car-parking space, and the Bike Hangar, a mini-bike garage that resembles a gigantic breadbox. It is lockable, fits six bikes and can be placed in a car-parking space.

In the Swedish city of Malmö three new underground Bike & Ride facilities have been built, one at the central railway station as well as two at smaller stations. Run by the city, they have space for more than 4,500 bikes and provide 24-hour-accessible storage, air pumps, lockers, restrooms and screens showing train departure and arrival times. They also have bike shops operated by a local company as well as waiting lounges. CCTV and security guards monitor the facilities.

Japan’s hi-tech bike parking solution

Tokyo’s cyclists can park their wheels in an even more hi-tech way, using the underground, automated EcoCycle garage, designed by engineering company Giken. All they have to do is deliver their bikes to a lift and swipe a chip card. The lift and its connected rails automatically deliver the bike to an empty space then fetch it when the user swipes their card again. Users pay around $21 (£14)per month for the service.

However, it is cities rather than private companies that are taking the lead in creating parking. That means primarily functional rather than flashy solutions. According to Gunjan Parik, head of the transportation initiative at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an alliance of large cities: “Many cities are rightly focused on getting the basics right and delivering volume.”

For cyclists, the biggest issue is safety. “Cyclists need to be able to lock their bike on to something in order to decrease the risk of theft, and the most basic solutions are often the most impactful,” says Esben Alslund-Lanthén, an analyst at the Copenhagen-based sustainability thinktank Sustainia. “The solutions are scalable to most urban contexts and have proved successful because there are low cost and catering to the needs of cyclists.”

The Dutch city of Nijmegen has built a guarded, indoor 4,000-bike facility. Like the Malmö facilities, it’s free of charge to users, who can see on displays whether any spaces are available before riding into the garage. The same detectors help the facility’s managers locate abandoned bikes, allowing them to free up space by removing them.

Rotterdam planned bike parking artist rendition
An artist’s rendition of a planned bike park in Rotterdam Photograph: City of Rotterdam

Amsterdam is about to build parking for 21,500 bikes around its train station, including a parking facility underneath a city lake as well as floating parking islands, while a subterranean parking facility surrounded by a park and with footbridge access to public transport will be inaugurated in Rotterdam later this year.

Part of the reason why bike-parking innovators are more often cities than businesses is that nobody is sure about the business model. Will cyclists, who are used to free parking, be willing to pay to park their bikes? And will enough of them pay, making cities more willing to try innovative concepts and thus making private companies’ innovation worthwhile?

Child is optimistic, predicting that the Radhaus will break even after five to 10 years.

“A key driver is the actual cost of bikes, cyclists don’t mind spending over a £1,000 on a Brompton or £2,000 plus on a decent carbon fibre framed road bike when its used as a significant part of their daily transport mode, but they won’t if its going to get damaged, stolen or stripped for parts.”

The parks could also be used to store cyclist’s clothes and bags, says Child. “We’re even talking to delivery companies that want to deliver goods such as groceries to the parked bikes,” he adds.


Elisabeth Braw

The GuardianTramp

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