[From July Issue 2010]
On their way to work or school, many people ride their bicycles to the train station. This usually results in a lack of bicycle parking spaces, making illegally parked bicycles left on the street or other places a social issue. They prevent pedestrians and other bicycles from passing through the congested area, and they also make the area look bad.
Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward has built automated, bicycle parking systems. After cyclists puts an IC (integrated circuit) tag on their bicycles and place them on the bike stand, the automated machine then carries each one to its designated storage shelf. The bicycle entrance is very small, big enough for only one bicycle. However, below each entrance is a large cylindrical parking area that measures 6.9-meter wide by 14.45-meter deep, and that can hold 180 bicycles.
In 2001, there were about 10 thousand illegally parked bicycles in the Edogawa Ward. Five hundred million yen was spent annually to cope with this problem. However, since land was difficult to secure, it was impossible to make a big bicycle parking lot. As a solution, 7 billion yen was spent in creating Japan’s biggest bicycle parking system, with a lot for 9,400 bicycles including 36 automated machines for 6,480 bicycles, underneath Kasai station.
“The number of illegally parked bicycles around Kasai station decreased from 1,358 to 50,” says NAITO Yasuo, an employee of the Edogawa Ward office’s parking department. “There are no worries about having bicycles stolen and no trouble finding your own bicycle among so many. Since you can store or retrieve at least two bicycles per minute, there is no need to wait.”
Users are happy and say that, “It’s like the parking system of the future because we can easily park and get our bicycles. It’s also less trouble when we are carrying many things,” adding that “The station area used to look messy with so many illegally parked bicycles, now it’s been completely cleaned up.”
In Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, an environmentally-friendly bicycle parking lot was completed just this March. It has a large, rooftop solar panel that generates 7,135 kilo watts of electricity annually. The generated electricity is used to charge the batteries of electric power-assisted bicycles and for the parking lot lighting system. Furthermore, there are also extra batteries to store electric power for rainy days and emergencies.
Electric power-assisted bicycles help with pedaling when a rider starts out or heads uphill. They can be rented for 300 yen per ride but the cyclist must pay a security deposit of 3,500 yen, refundable when the contract ends.
“Bicycles parked illegally around the station used to have a bad image,” says NISHI Tatsuya, an employee in the transportation safety section of Setagaya’s Ward Office. “However, with less people driving cars as a result of the rise in gasoline prices, and with more people concerned about the environment, the merits of bicycles have been reconsidered. Especially these electric power-assisted bicycles, which are highly-valued because they can be ridden without much effort, and which older people appreciate, knowing that, ‘they can ride this one.’ For people’s good health and for the environment, we hope that bicycles continue to be widely used.”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo