The uproar over New York’s new bike share system is mostly due to very human shortcomings (one crotchety human in particular, actually). But it can also be blamed on the shortcomings of the system's infrastructure for failing to keep the damn contraptions out of the way.
But if we look to other biking cultures, we see that this problem has already been solved -- by robotic parking systems that store bikes underground or vertically, in towers. Robotic parking for cars is already catching on in some places (it’s been around in China and Europe for years). But bikes -- which take up an outsized amount of room on the street -- are a relatively new addition to the robotic parking market.
There are plenty of hurdles with installing such a system in New York. But it's only a matter of time, since robotic systems boast a foolproof commercial logic: automated parking takes up less space in the urban fabric -- which means more space for real estate developers. In the meantime, have a look at five cities that are implementing their own innovative systems.
E-Bike Mobility is the German counterpart to Eco-Cycles. The company builds robotic bike storage systems all over Europe -- like this solar-powered one, in Meckenbeuren, which can store 112 bikes outside of the small town's train station.
Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
The Czech version of the robotic tower stores 117 bikes at a time on a seven-tried hexagonal framework. It costs about 25 cents to park your bike here, using a modified robotic stacker that hangs bikes vertically along the internal struts.
The incredible real estate prices in Tokyo spurred Japanese engineers to figure out a solution to problem of surface parking long ago: an underground valet. Eco-Cycle is an opt-in system where members pay a fee to use the robotic storage systems, which stow bikes 12m below ground level.
DC, which has had a bike share for two years, isn't quite on the robotic bandwagon yet -- but this lovely shell-shaped storage system is certainly a step in the more efficient direction.
This concept for a thin, vertical hangar system was shortlisted in a recent competition to improve Seoul's urban infrastructure. The modular system would make it possible to fit hundreds of bikes into the thin gaps in the urban fabric -- the system is human-powered, thanks to a pedal generator, and the designers claim that maintenance would only cost $15 a year. Of course, it's just a concept, but it's not far off from being an implementable design, according to the competition jurors.