Property consultant Nick Knight has spent three years securing the exclusive UK licence for the Ecocycle robot bicycle parking system from Japan. He said the high-tech bike sheds will be suitable for local authorities, universities, railway stations and the type of new-build high-rise housing and commercial buildings springing up in London and other cities. Ecocycle units can be above or below ground.
Operating successfully in Japan since 2002 the Ecocycle concept was developed by Tokyo-based engineering firm Giken.
Knight has erected a 58-bike demo unit on a building plot in Southwark in the shadow of Transport for London’s HQ, one of his target customers.
The unit was manufactured by Apex Lifts, London’s largest independent elevator servicing company. The standard Ecocycle unit will securely store up to 204 bicycles. To store a bicycle requires a smartcard and a transponder on the front fork. The customer places a bicycle on a slotted rack, and once access has been verified by the smart card doors open and a robot arm clasps the front wheel of the bike, pulling it inside the unit. The bike is then slotted into the nearest position. Retrieving the bike reverses the process, which takes 13 seconds. Lights, bags and other accessories can be left on the bike.
Knight wouldn’t be drawn on pricing because there are many variables to consider, including whether the units will be buried underground.
“An Ecocycle unit is more expensive than traditional cycle storage,” Knight told BikeBiz. “But the benefits are greater. With a much smaller footprint an Ecocycle unit can release significant value for a building developer, especially considering the astronomical prices of property in London.” He said a 51 square metre Ecocycle unit can store the same number of bikes as a 190 square metre two-tier cycle storage area.
“Cities such as London talk a lot about becoming ‘smart’ cities. This is the sort of thing that can make that a reality. Cycling in London is growing by ten percent each year and cycle superhighways are being built to accommodate this growth but the city also needs somewhere to store all of these bikes, reducing street clutter. When people feel their bicycles will be safe and secure they are more likely to cycle, leading to less congestion and cleaner air.”