Japan has an ingenious solution to the problem of bikes overcrowding its sidewalks: it stores them underground.
Cities across the country are seeing a dramatic rise in the number of bike riders on their streets (28% in New York City last year, for example). But with that good news comes the unfortunate fact of a corresponding rise in bicycle theft. Lacking the art and pathos of Italy's cinematic classic, The Bicycle Thief, the experience of getting one's wheels stolen is not only expensive, it's utterly depressing.
One of the more ingenious solutions to the problem of bike theft was posted over at PUBLIC Bikes' blog today: the Eco-Cycle Bicycle Storage Elevator. Despite its tiny footprint, an Eco-Cycle unit can hold up to 800 bicycles because the actual storage area is located below ground. The rider presses in a code and sends his or her bike on its way to subterranean safety. You can see how it works here expand=1].
The EcoCycle has been around for a couple of years now but as cities struggle to find adequate bike parking space for the increasingly crowded sidewalks, it's worth another look. Once again, space-starved Japan demonstrates how the best design comes from constraints.