Japan's major cities are anything but car-friendly - not because of poor road design but mainly due to constant large traffic volumes. City denizens have learned it's better to take the subway or hop on a bus when navigating around town. That's fine if you're on foot but what about cyclists, a significant proportion of whom are women and housewives?
Bicycle riders often take the subway for some portion of their urban travels but have been discouraged in the past by the long staircases that lead down to subway stations and up to street level. Municipal authorities have come up with an easy to use, unobtrusive solution: the Bike-A-Lator!
It is exactly what it sounds like: an escalator for bikes. There is a somewhat similar bike escalator system in use in Norway called the "trampe" (right), which features a powered underground cable with a foot pedal mounted cyclists lean on while being propelled uphill. The Japanese system (left) is different, requiring the rider to dismount and ascend or descend stairs by foot while holding their bicycle's wheels in a moving slot the runs alongside the stairway. Holding onto the bike's hand brake ensures the bicycle doesn't roll downward.
Here's a video of a bike-a-lator in action:
A bicycle escalator is a neat idea that gives a boost to two methods of non-automotive travel, though one wonders how subway commuters feel when a bicycle intrudes into overcrowded cars during rush hour. (via Lonelee Planet, Frederick and Jonathan Charles)