London is making strides to improve its cycling infrastructure, but still has a lack of safe storage. Eco Cycle is seeking to remedy this. Its automatic machines whisk users bikes into a circular, vertical rack that is secure and dry. Bikes are returned to their owners with the swipe of a card.

The technology for Eco Cycle has been used in Japan since 2002. Having secured the license for deploying the technology in the UK, MD of Eco Cycle Nick Knight tells Gizmag this is the first time it has been installed elsewhere. There are two Eco Cycle models, with one providing storage for up to 204 bikes and a smaller version that can store up to 58 bikes. Both models resemble small towers and can be installed either above or below ground.

To use the larger model, individuals need only wheel their bike up to the door. The machine will recognize a tag on the fork of the bike and will open a small section of the door for the front wheel of the bike to be slotted into. Once the bike is secured, the user is asked to step away and the bike is automatically transported into the tower. Once inside, a cradle lowers or raises the bike to a space in the racks. The smaller model follows a similar process.

To retrieve a bike, the user needs only to approach the machine and swipe their Eco Cycle Card. Their bike is then automatically retrieved from its location within the tower and returned to the user at ground level. The retrieval process is said to take no longer than 13 seconds.

Such is the self-contained design of the Eco Cycle machines that users do not need to use chains or locks. In addition to their security, though, the machines have a number of other benefits.

To begin, they minimize the footprint of bike storage and reduce on-street clutter. Their tower-like design means the units take up just six percent of the space required to accommodate the same number of bikes within 2-tier racking. An accompanying app, meanwhile, lets users find the Eco Cycle machine nearest their destination and check the number of spaces available.

Eco Cycle points out that the Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London is seeking to deliver a network of direct, high-capacity, joined-up cycle tracks. This includes a 15-mi (24-km) route running from east to west across the city, which is dubbed "Crossrail for the bike" in reference to the city's new rail link that will also link east and west.

The vision also seeks to make streets safer for cycling, to double the number of people cycling by 2020 and to make the city a more pleasant place to be, as one dominated by people and not motor traffic. Nick Knight argues that it supports this vision.

"Japan is globally renowned for its technically advanced engineering and ingenious use of space, which are perfectly embodied in the Eco Cycle concept," says Knight. "It was clear to me that this would be an elegant solution to the cycling revolution that London – and the UK as a whole – is experiencing, providing the secure cycle storage that's currently the missing link in the Mayoral Cycling Vision."

A 58-cycle demonstrator model has been installed in the London Borough of Southwark, close to Southwark Underground Station. Knight says this will be used to show the benefits of the technology to potential buyers, which he expects to include the likes of local authorities, universities and private developers.

The video below shows one of the Eco Cycle machines in action.

Source: Eco Cycle

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