John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It's not hard to see why people love it so much, though.
It's the Terminator of viral content: Despite being really old and subject to monotonous sequels, this Japanese bike-parking robot keeps grabbing the spotlight with unstoppable force.
Giken's ECO Cycle system is now blowing up the Facebook page of Japanese-media site Jrock Radio. But the same apparatus racked up big hits in 2014, 2013, 2012, and when Giken posted a video about it in 2011. Oh, let's not forget the mentions in 2010, 2009, and 2008. And now that I'm looking into it, this very site also covered the robot a couple years back.
It's not hard to see why people love it so much. The ECO Cycle is a clever solution to a deficit of urban cycle storage. Looking like a spoke-riddled elevator pit, the machine shoots out a mechanical arm to grab bikes and drag them dozens of feet underground. A pressure-sensitive mat ensures the robot won't also nab nearby riders and take them screaming on a hell-ride down under.
The system is fast, able to retrieve cycles as quickly as 8 seconds, and spacious, with the latest model having room for 204 bikes. And despite similar technology for autos existing in the United States, it just sounds so like Japan to hand off another task to the robots. This is a land, after all, where machines already direct traffic, comfort lovelorn men, and teach dental students proper form by grunting if jabbed in the gums (or, seriously, nudged in the breasts).
So hello and goodbye again, old friend—we'll see you again in 2016. For parking-'bot completists, here's some of the previous coverage: