Robot-operated bike parking systems are not unusual in Asia. There's a famous underground bike parking tower in Tokyo that has been in operation since 2008 but, to date, nobody has installed an exterior robot-controlled bike parking tower in Europe. Until now. Velo, the Czech importer of Wheeler bicycles of Taiwan, has helped fund an automatic parking tower that can hold 117 bicycles. The tower requires no human workers: users pay for their parking via a console and receive a ticket which enables later access to the bicycle. The tower has been installed by a railway station near the city of Hradec Kralove.
The tower uses a standard computer-controlled stacker system but modified to stack bicycles. The front wheel of the to-be-parked bicycle is grabbed by arms fitted with cushioned aluminium paddles shaped like fat hands. Unlike street parking, which requires the cyclist to remove pannier bags, lights and computers, the Czech bike parking tower can grab and stack bicycles fitted with accessories. A helmet can even be left on the handlebars.
This video shows the robot stacker being tested; when in use the bikes will be grabbed and stacked at greater speed.
Daniel Mourek, vice president of the European Cyclists' Federation said:
"These kind of bike towers could revolutionise bicycle parking in cities throughout Europe."
However, CTC's Dave Holladay sounded a note of caution: "The Czech tower looks slower and bulkier than the Japanese system. There was also an automated system in Winterthur, Switzerland, but the problem was the length of service, waiting for the next bicycle to be parked in the stack. It took 45 seconds to park or retrieve the bike. A wait is off-putting to users. Carousel systems have also been tried in the Netherlands but it was found that a poor level of service put off users, and was costlier than high-density basic systems."