Fifty years ago, guessing what the future would look like was particularly in vogue, and all those fantastic retro-futuristic drawings were born. I remember seeing somewhere the concept for an automatic car parking machine with robots taking your car and stuffing it somewhere in a big warehouse. “That’s ridiculous,” I thought, “When we have the technology to do something like that, we won’t still be driving cars!” Well, I was wrong. Of course it’s not for cars, and of course it’s in Japan, but this automatic bike storage system (video in link) is definitely a little piece of the future.
These Cycle Trees, designed by JFE Engineering, have actually been in use for about two years in various places around Japan, and are recently starting to become a bit more common. A little tag stuck to your bike identifies it to the computer, which then files it away in a sort of big bike rolodex. Swipe a card, and you have your bike back in about 30 seconds, if that video is any indication. Man, I’d love to have one of these for my neighborhood. In fact, Seattle city planners are trying to figure out how to get more bike parking around the upcoming light rail stop on Capitol Hill. If they had one of these things, that’s it — problem solved (plus it’s awesome).
Of course, it’s isn’t free. But ¥1800 (about $20) a month isn’t too much to ask. It’s about on the edge of affordability, though, considering there are plenty of street signs and rails to lock your bike to around here. Still, it’s totally awesome.