Crowdsourcing safety with BikeAround

user experience design case study (still in development)



my roles:user researchuser interviewsuser flowsuser testinginteraction designwireframingrapid prototypingpresentation client:a UXDI colleague teamone designer duration:one week (2016)    

Problem: An Austin newcomer needs to know which roads and intersections she should avoid to be safe.


For this project, my user base was one person who had just moved to Austin. Her eagerness to make use of Austin's famed cycling culture withered when her navigation app recommended dangerously busy roadways as her best cycling option. For lack of local knowledge about the safest bike routes, she abandoned her cycling aspirations and now takes a stressful, expensive car commute into downtown.



One type of dangerous roadway recommended to cyclists by existing navigation apps



The initial problem my user stated wasn't related to cycling at all — it was a frustration with finding parking downtown. Probing further during interviews revealed that she only switched to driving after being forced to abandon cycling, due to safety concerns.



User interviews went deeper than the originally stated problem



Interviews with my user dug into her motivations: Why did she want to bike initially? What made her abandon that plan? What trade-offs would she be willing to accommodate in order to have this safer experience?



Original pain points: navigating downtown and finding/paying for parking





"south congress is very busy. if there were an alternate bike path into downtown, then i would consider that."


— euni, principle user




Challenges: How do you measure safety? How can a navigation system discern the safe routes from the unsafe ones? How can directions be communicated to a bicyclist en route?





One early concept: Recreational cyclers travel in groups to increase visibility on dangerous roads. Could a scheduled "bicycle train" do the same for commutes? User interviews revealed an unwillingness to have to plan commutes around others, so the project went another direction.




"I don’t want to wait for other people, i just want to know where the safer routes are."


— euni, principle user




The idea of sharing tips to improve navigation is already quite popular, in apps like Waze and Mapkin. Could similar crowd-sourcing techniques be applied urban cycling?


I tested a few variations of a navigation app that guided a cyclist away from dangerous areas and toward safer ones. This data would come from other users of the app, much like users can report qualitative tips in Waze. My user explicitly said that if a real person were being held accountable for their tips, she would provide feedback more herself.







Solution: BikeAround - a mobile app that gives urban cyclists safer turn-by-turn directions, informed by tips from other cyclists


The native application:

  • crowd-sources tips from local cyclists about any unsafe bike routes or roads
  • uses that data to navigate users around unsafe areas with turn-by-turn, in-headphone voice guidance
  • allows users to give feedback on others' tips


Outcome: Delivered a case study presentation to my design colleagues, including my user. (Links below.) Both the design and presentation were very well-received.



Retrospective: As the world migrates more into urban centers, active transportation is going to be a crucial part of reducing automotive congestion and improving public health. I've personally almost been hit by a car twice at a dangerous intersection, and I'd like to steer other cyclists away from similar circumstances. I've received lots of positive feedback outside of my design course on BikeWays, and intend to work with a developer to build out a minimum viable product and continue iterating on this design.


It was exciting to watch ideas for this come from the mind of my user, rather than my own head.


Good ideas don’t spring from the head of someone who works in a studio. It is the messy but satisfying job of a designer to assemble the solutions that are only discoverable through the eyes of other people.


Below you can view the interactive prototype, the presentation deck (presentation notes not included), and more designs.  Footnote: The presentation and prototype contain the project's original name, BikeWays.


*Bicycle icon by Hycan, on the Noun Project.


prototype »

on POP app


presentation »

on slideshare


« more designs

on homepage


© 2018 Robert Boler.  Don't steal content.  Shame on you.