As bike riding grows more popular in cities around the world, bike storage becomes more of a problem. The fact is space is at a premium in the urban setting, and bicycles are rather awkward-shaped devices. In places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, for instance, parking a bicycle has become increasingly difficult and, in some cases, downright intimidating:
Fortunately some cities have responded to the challenge with exceptional ingenuity. Japanese engineers have developed a multi-level "cycle tree" — perhaps more appropriately named a "cycle cave" — that stores bikes in an elaborate underground system. Riders feed their bike into a mechanized rut that sends it down into a designated spot, retrieving the bike later with a simple swipe of a card. One "cycle tree" in Tokyo, considered the world's largest, holds some 6,500 bikes.
A truer bike tree can be found in Geneva, where riders can watch their bike raised high above the hands of thieves while remaining protected from the elements. In that same anti-theft vein, German designers have created a bike lock with inline wheels and a small motor that enables riders to power their bikes high up a street pole. Seoul, Korea, is working toward a system of bike hangers that cling to the site of residential buildings; riders can park for just $15 a year, though they have to pedal to retrieve their bike. A slightly less advanced version of this concept has been implemented already by some riders in the East Village:
The rest of New York is also doing its part to catch up to bike-storage demands. In summer of 2010 some garages were charging riders automobile prices to park — upwards of $175 a month. By fall, however, the market had adjusted to demand, and some garages offered dollar-a-day bike parking, with monthly fees at a reasonable $20. Apartment buildings are embracing the challenge as well. The New York Times recently reported that a considerable percentage of apartment seekers want a building with sufficient bike-storage space. Some have responded by creating dedicated garage space for bikes; others, in typical Manhattan fashion, even offer bike valet service to residents.
Those who don't mind cramming their bikes into their apartments have a growing number of options as well. These range from basic wooden wall mounts to simple, cheap wall hooks to stylish, colorful hanging nodes to elegant bike storage furniture that, in the words of Freshome, "unite cycling culture with interior design." A Times slideshow from a few years back showcases some other space-saving solutions. These include a wall device that lifts bikes off the ground with a hydraulic spring, a freestanding rack made of oak, an incredibly compact and sleek wall hook, and a similar structure that, while bulkier, provides space for helmets and other equipment.
Many city dwellers, conscious of their limited apartment space, are now looking for bike storage devices that serve a double purpose. Knife & Saw recently introduced a hanging bike shelf that also acts as a small bookshelf. Less costly variations are starting to appear as well. Those with a balcony might consider a bike-shelf-birdhouse combination that holds a helmet as easily as it holds a helmetshrike. The most innovative, though perhaps also the least comfortable, design goes to Store Muu Design Studio, which conceived a sort of hybrid bike-desk, wherein the bike seat doubles as the office chair.
Bikes themselves have begun to address the storage problem. A clever design by the Flipphandle company has found a way for the handlebar to turn 90 degrees so a bike can hang vertically on a wall without jutting out too far to the sides. A few bike models even fold up entirely. Some of these, while relatively cheap, are wimpy rides. Others, while impressive as a vehicle, can run thousands of dollars. It's not quite the vehicle-that-folds-into-a-briefcase we were promised in The Jetsons, but it's getting there.