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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Bicycle parking tower

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What is a dense city like Tokyo to do when it runs out of space for cyclists to park their bikes? Build a bicycle parking tower! At about the 40 second mark, you’ll see what I mean.

I don’t remember seeing a lot of cyclists on the streets when I visited Tokyo a couple years ago, but I do remember the clusters of parked bikes that lined the sidewalks when I was in Osaka. What surprised me was how many of them were left unlocked. A number of the bikes also had yellow cards attached to their handles — these were parking tickets, my Japanese friend informed me, most of which would be ignored. With few other places to put their bikes, it seemed cyclists had no choice but to ignore the laws that dictated where they could park. (Perhaps readers who have spent more time in Japan can provide more insight into the cycling culture there.)

As neat as this tower is, right now I’d be happy just to see a few more ring-and-posts here in Toronto. As more and more people begin to ditch their car (or, in my case, streetcar) for a bike, however, providing bicycle parking spaces will soon need to be taken a lot more seriously. Could a bicycle parking tower be the answer?




  1. The TD Centre announced last week they were installing 40 bike racks to cope with the strike. I’m betting that even if they are already installed they will take all of the extra ones back out again 🙁

  2. Perhaps the Japanese should investigate bike sharing? This would virtually eliminate the need for bike parking. Bikes don’t require quite as much room as cars to park, but when they are popular parking still is a challenge.

  3. Does Toronto have the density to support such a centralized bike storage? The beauty of the ring and post is that you can park right in front of your destination.
    I’d love for there to be enough cyclists that we actually have a problem with bicycle storage in Toronto, but are we really anywhere close to this problem?
    Before we go building elaborate underground robot bike storage facilities, let me ask, how many bikes could park in one car parking spot if it were converted to bike racks?

  4. I used to live in Japan.

    Japan is a special case: a majority of adults bike a kilometre or two on daily errands, and to the train station, and they bike on very non-performance bikes. It is such a wet climate in much of the year that bikes are not expected to last more than a couple of years. Bike sharing is not going to be attractive for a few reasons: $150 bikes are widely available and treated as a semi-disposable household item; and they need to have it at their own home every morning, and leave it at their station all day long.

    Not only are there far more bikes in Japan per capita, but far more are regularly used, and drawn magnetically to the stations. Towns have serious bike parking issues at stations as we have parking and traffic issues in our city (a nice change that would be!). The video’s solution is a little extreme even for Japan (thus it was a news item), but necessary for that busy station. I have seen, the outside of, just such a machine in Takamatsu, Shikoku (japan) myself.

  5. It would be an interesting idea considering we have such a high bike theft rate in this city.Who is selling these “hot bikes”?But it is a hassle to park your bike in Toronto considering it might not be there when you get back.

    An officer once told me a story about when he was parked at the harbourfront.He unlocked his bike at one of the city racks and realized that he had dropped his riding gloves a few meters back.Instead of relocking his bike he went back to pick up his gloves.No sooner had he turned his back a thief jumped on his bike and rode off.He gave chase but to no avail!!And this was a cop!He said he would never buy a quality bike again and now takes the TTC instead.I think more people would use a bike if this city was more bike friendly.Unfortunately we will have to wait for a new council that is willing to install bike lanes and protected spots where it will be safe to park our bikes.Until then be very very careful how and where you park that bike.

  6. Those bikes in Japan are often, in fact, locked – Just by using a small device that locks the wheel so it cannot move. That eliminates the need to lock it to something, but someone could just lift it up and walk away with it. It’s the same sort of thing in Amsterdam, but they use it in addition to locking it to a post.

  7. Bikes do get stolen in Japan. I’ve done it myself, but the rules are very different. Any completely broken down and neglected bike with an inch thick layer of dust on it is fair game for a drunken ride back home from the bar.

    In the unlikely event such a bike is missed by its owner, every Japanese knows that the bike licence attached to it will be in the police database, so they can get it back from the pound, and that for free. Did I mention that there is a mini police station at any station of note, so filing a claim is easy (also great for getting directions).

    Expensive bikes are left alone. I’ve never seen a U-lock or cable of any thickness, much less a chain, so the few thieves would just walk past such a sight. Umbrellas, however, will get taken from any bar. Never buy one worth more than $5 (available at all convenience stores).

  8. Is it just me, or is this an incredibly inefficient use of space? Why would they use a radial system – you could potentially pack in hundreds of more bikes if they stacked them in an orthogonal manner…

    I think they just wanted to build a tower 😛

  9. Facilities like this are actually quite common in some parts of Europe. The Dutch are probably the most inventive: Most of the big cities in the Netherlands have extensive parking decks and spaces , like the one in Amsterdam, but there are also lots of smaller “fietsenstallingen” in the countryside, sometimes not much larger than a bike-shed, but almost always well-designed, practical and safe.

    Parking lots for bikes can also be found in many places in Denmark (“Cykelparkering”), Switzerland (“Velostation”) and Germany (“Radstation”). There’s a interesting example in Mà¼nster (a German city with a large student population) – actually a redesigned underground shopping mall. (The German wikipedia has pictures.)

  10. The report says the cost is about $1 per use, or $18 for a monthly pass….. very reasonable.