It has become a mantra on Treehugger that for the e-bike revolution to happen, we need "affordable bikes, good bike lanes, and a safe, secure place to park." Most of the parking solutions we have shown on Treehugger, like the Oonee Mini, need corporate and government support because they are expensive and take up a lot of space. But a new e-bike can cost as much as an old car; it has to be locked securely, preferably out of sight.
That's why the Alpen bike capsule is so interesting. It's "built from virtually indestructible roto-molded polymer and equipped with an integrated locking mechanism with optional Bluetooth functionality." It can be installed anywhere without taking up a lot of real estate, and at $1800 it's cheaper than many e-bikes.
Founder Eric Pearson says that the original business strategy was to sell the capsules to cyclists; the video shows them on decks and even a silly one at the end of a dock.
However, they are now focusing on the real estate industry. This makes sense; there have been so many stories recently about supposedly secure bike storage areas being broken into and the best bikes being stolen. If there are a bunch of capsules scattered around the dead spaces in parking garages, then the thieves don't know which one has the good bikes worth taking. And the need for bike storage is growing like mad; Alpen has some numbers: "The e-bike market saw 90 percent growth in the U.S. in 2019. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, top e-bike brands have reported between 150 percent and 400 percent growth."
It's smart marketing in these times. Pearson says that the bike capsules also "serve as an attractive amenity for tenant retention, as some people are considering leaving their apartments for other locations now that remote working has freed up where people can live and work.” They can also be rented to tenants.
"The ALPEN Bike Capsule can accommodate bikes of nearly any size or design, including mountain bikes with wide handlebars. It also has plenty of interior space and handy peg board hooks for cycling accessories. With typical high-end bikes now priced upwards of $8,000 and over 1.5 million stolen each year in the U.S. alone, enthusiasts deserve a better alternative for storing these valuable assets. The ALPEN Bike Capsule gives it to them."
The capsules are manufactured by the company that makes YETI coolers out of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) which is #4 on the recycling chart, and which,according to United States Plastic Corp., has "higher tensile strength and higher impact and puncture resistance than the LDPE." It's strong stuff.
Alpen says that "the fully integrated locking mechanism is opened with a key. It locks automatically as the door rotates closed, much like the trunk of a car." The entire capsule is bolted down with four bolts that are inaccessible when the unit is shut, so it would take a real investment in time for a thief to get in, and there is not much incentive when you don't know what is inside. As Alpen notes, "It is extremely difficult to break into a Capsule without highly specialized equipment. However, it is not a strongbox, but rather a very effective deterrent to opportunistic bicycle theft."
They would also make a great barrier for fully separated bike lanes. Imagine, blocks and blocks of bike lockers keeping cars and trucks out of the lanes, providing parking all the way. We need more of this.