Kyoto’s amazing underground bike parking system

By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Compared to Tokyo, Japan’s former capital, Kyoto, is fairly compact. Most of the commercial development is clustered around Kyoto Station, with a ring of temples, gardens, and other historical sites surrounding the more modern parts of the city.

Kyoto is also relatively flat, and the grid pattern its major streets are laid out on makes it an easy town to get around by bicycle. Of course, Kyoto doesn’t want an unsightly mass of parked bikes marring the scenery and cluttering pedestrian walkways, which is why at one of the city’s major transportation hubs there’s a subterranean, automated bicycle parking lot, and if that sounds awesomely high-tech, wait until you see it in action.

The rail lines that connect Kyoto Station with the rest of Japan, including those for the Shinkansen bullet train, run east and west from the station. While you’ll find a few hotels and businesses scattered south of the building, the vast majority of the city’s accommodations and attractions are found in the neighborhoods to the north of the station, which can be accessed by the Hachijo Exit.

Aside from the huge crowds of tourists Kyoto draws, the city is home to well over a million people. With so many people needing to get in and out of the station through the Hachijo Exit, leaving your bike on the sidewalk is a big no-no. Besides, why would you want to, when you could do this instead?

After hopping off, users slide their bike into the slot and hit the “park” button on the terminal. From there, the bike is whisked away to parts unknown.

Or, the parts would be unknown if the video didn’t then cut away to show us the next leg of the bicycle’s fantastic voyage. While the whirring of the motors are probably inaudible up at street-level, the bicycle rides the elevator down to a cavernous array of bike racks before being slid out into an empty slot.

And no, there’s no need to shimmy down there to retrieve your ride. All you have to do is hold your registered card up to the scanner, and the machines will go to work and spit your bike back out in no more than 15 seconds.

So why doesn’t every city in Japan have an awesome setup like this? Well, the apparatus isn’t exactly cheap, with the cost for the whole thing coming out to 4.26 million yen, meaning that it’s strictly for places where it’s going to get enough use to justify that price tag, such as Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station and Nishinomiya City, located near Osaka.

Still, seeing as how Kyoto prides itself on hospitality, even by Japan’s high standards, we’d say the city is an appropriate location for a cutting-edge valet bicycle parking system.

Source: AOL Japan

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- From Kyoto: The bicycle you can ride while wearing a kimono -- Japan’s futuristic underground bicycle parking vaults -- Zambikes Handcrafted Bamboo Bicycles Now On Sale In Japan

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spacewise, this is a very good system, but the concept isn't perfect. Remember, some people are rushing most of the times, so to put the bike in and especially get out takes more time than to do it manually. so this system hasn't convinced me yet. Also, what if the system malfunctions?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I think it's awesome. Certainly, a malfunction MIGHT happen, @papigiulio, but this is Japan, where automation is the world's best. I'd love to see this in places like Copenhagen, Paris and a half-dozen other cities around the world where cycling is a lifestyle that beats the automobile.

I'll check it out when I'm in Kyoto, in a few weeks and have the occasion to rent a bike for a week.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Kyoto is not really as bicycle-friendly as you'd think, except for along the Kamo River, which is surprisingly underused, even for parking bikes (thank God!). Over the last few years authorities in Kyoto have become more ruthless about bicycle parking and behaviour - not always a bad thing, and I wish they were a bit more ruthless here in Shikoku sometimes, lights, texting and so on.

This new parking system is not the only one - just down past the central post office near Bic Camera there is a DIY underground parking station for bikes, which I used once. But I had to pay, which seemed anachronistic with my own, folding bike. When I lived there I never paid for parking. But a bike I had was nicked there once, so maybe I deserved that.

Now when I go to Kyoto I just walk everywhere, and having lived there I know shortcuts, away from the growing tourist population. Geez! sometimes in spring and autumn trying to get around some of the places with a bicycle is just not worth it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

We got the same system in Mitaka and many other places around Tokyo for a long time. Not sure why this is news as it has also been covered on tv many times.

Covering the Suicle would be nice, rent a cycle with your Suica and drop it off at another station.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

^ suicle is awesome, i used the hell outta that. and so much cheaper than the sorry attempts being made in places like Seattle.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wonder if there are long lines of people waiting to park and retrieve their bicycles during rush-hour periods.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't undertstand. The author said it cost 4.6 million yen to build.. That is only just over $40k US. Not very expensive for a rwvolutionary parking system. It would be nice if the author did some research on exchange rates.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, the apparatus isn’t exactly cheap, with the cost for the whole thing coming out to 4.26 million yen,

4.26 million yen seems surprisingly cheap to me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

4.26 million yen seems surprisingly cheap to me.

Indeed. That's about the price of an underground car parking spot in North American cities. From the video, it seems this can hold dozens of bikes. So that's what, around 1 000$ per bike parking space?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

4.26 million yen = 35000 $. Very cheap! It should be profitable in Kyoto city centre

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Of course, Kyoto doesn’t want an unsightly mass of parked bikes marring the scenery... >

Ironic, given that Kyoto did more to "mar the scenery" with its fortress-like behemoth of a new station than a few bicycles ever will.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sankei News West reports that the underground parking system is available on a monthly basis for 2700 yen. The average wait time for retrieving a bicycle is 13 seconds. The facility pictured holds up to 200 machines.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ironic, given that Kyoto did more to "mar the scenery" with its fortress-like behemoth of a new station than a few bicycles ever will.

Kyoto Station does clash with the image of Kyoto, however, your point is largely incorrect. Kyoto Station is nowhere near the "scenery" of traditional Kyoto and is located inside a business district with plenty of tall office buildings anyway. It is rarely visible from the traditional touristic areas and is no worse than the rest of the modern skyline of Kyoto.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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