This is all over the Net this week, but it's still cool enough to report on here: the Bike Tree is a solar-powered, high-security bike storage system, which raises bicycles up off the sidewalk (and out of reach of thieves and vandals). It even looks vaguely neo-biological. (You can check out a video demonstration of how it works on their site.)
That's an interesting device and answers some of the basic problems with easy bike storage.
My initial impression, though, is wondering what the "cultural creatives" of the American urban environment might "creatively" do to that thing. It seems that they may not be able to steal the bicycles very easily, but I bet they could do a number on that Bike Tree itself - from climbing up into the "canopy", to putting bubble gum in the slots, to smashing the dome, etc. - not to mention disabling or wrecking the smartcard system.
So, it seems much more suitable to certain parts of Europe or urban Canada than other places.
I do like how they're thinking more about function than ownership, as it seems they've basically developed an entire bicycle system modeled on carsharing - not just the Bike Tree itself. If you were to preload those with bicycles and start using them first in tourist areas (eg, Fisherman's Wharf), then that might be a good place to get a foothold in the American market.
It'll be interesting to see if Chicago looks in to working with this company to complement its new bike depot at Millenium Park. I'll certainly be passing it along to the people here at the Minnesota Bicycle Coalition and Midtown Greenway folks. One or both are going to be establishing a bike depot at a refurbished Sears building along the Greenway.
Thanks for posting that, Alex.
Vandalism comment - Nothing that a couple of security cameras wouldn't take care of... You would be amazed at how fast graffiti stops when cameras are put in place.
I like the bike sharing idea as well.
We need BikeTrees in Portland. I have passed this along to friends at Flexcar, one of our city's private-sector leaders on exploring intermodal urban transport. Connecting bike storage, (potential) bike-sharing, and (actual) car-sharing is a pretty cool thought.
The first post about graffiti and damage is true, up to a point. But I sense that real, practical, and attractive urban amenities (not just pretty things to look at or sit on) begin to nurture a different mindset, and ever so gradually, people behave better because they believe themselves to be living in a better place.
Yes, thanks for an intriguing post, Alex.
Nothing that a couple of security cameras wouldn't take care of
Surely you jest, sir. They *may* help in catching someone after the fact, but they certainly won't stop people from monkeying with the thing. Where is the camera even mounted? Up in the "canopy"? I wonder how well that deters someone at night if it's dark and all you can see is the top of their head, or worse, hat.
Again, I think it has great possibilities as a bike system, but let's be real about what happens to public amenities in this country.
Perhaps university campuses would be the ideal place to start rolling these out in America.