In an effort to enhance safety of bicyclists in New York City, MyRide is a mobile application that sends scheduled push notification alerts about hazards and road conditions along their routine bike routes.
MyRide is the result of a project based in NYC, NY, conducted in four sprints spanning four weeks. It involved scoping down to a focused problem, performing thorough user research, testing divergent concepts, and carrying out a user-centric design process to present a solution in the form of an interactive prototype.
"My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will... establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration."
As society becomes more and more technologically driven, governments have begun shifting toward digital systems to create accessible and efficient forms of information delivery to citizens. Soon after his first election, President Obama promised a dedication to openness in government, listing several features as key points.
With this increased government commitment to digital services comes the opportunity to develop digital solutions for the benefit of citizens.
For this project based in New York City, my team and I focused our efforts on the government sector of transportation, specifically biking.
In addition to performing research ourselves, we interviewed 2 subject matter experts, one DOT employee and one bike activist, to help us understand the existing transportation and biking situation in NYC. This is what we learned:
Transportation in New York City is a sector with unparalleled scale and reach. Millions of people utilize various modes of public and private transportation, often multiple times a day.
Commuters nearly double
Manhattan’s population from
1.6 to 3.1 million every day.
A crumbling public transit infrastructure paired with the increasing traffic congestion results in citizen’s furious search for alternative transportation options. Biking has emerged as NYC’s fastest growing means of transit.
More than 800,000 New Yorkers bike regularly.
On a typical day, almost 500,000 bike trips are made in the city.
Since 2012, cycling to work in NYC has grown nearly 2x faster than in any other major city.
As we continued to our deep dive, we found significant data regarding bike accidents.
As of the start of our project in August, there had been 19 bicyclist fatalities so far that year in NYC.
During the course of our four week project, we found out that 2 more bike deaths had occurred.
This brought the 2019 NYC biker fatality total to 22, which was already 13 more than all of 2018.
Most bicyclist fatalities occur on streets lacking bike lanes; and out of 6,000+ NYC streets, fewer than 1 in 5 have bike lanes.
When streets do have bike lanes, there were 40% fewer biking-related accidents resulting in death or serious injury.
It was then we realized a correlation between the increase in deaths and lack of cycling infrastructure in NYC. This raised the question:
How could bicyclist safety be improved in the absence of perfect infrastructure?
To better understand the current landscape and to be able to pinpoint what the market was missing, we looked into players that exist within the biking space. We selected these contenders based on the assumption that bikers learn about safety through digital methods.
We found three main resource types:
1. Navigation apps that include bike routes in addition to driving, public transportation, rideshares, and walking
2. Active news and development sites
3. Informational bicycling resources provided by the city government
Based on visualizing the competitive analysis:
We found an opportunity to create a digital solution related to bike safety that is both up-to-date with current information and personalized for individual users.
Next, we conducted user research in order to learning their behaviors, needs, and challenges as bicyclists.
We interviewed 9 New Yorkers between the ages of 23 and 74 who biked at least 2x a week.
We hoped to learn the following:
1. Attitudes, opinions, and experiences biking in NYC
2. Mental models around bike safety
3. Biking-related resources they currently used
After interviewing users, we assigned meaning to the data collected through affinity diagramming. We each reviewed the interview transcripts and our notes for any interesting user quotes or key points that were mentioned, writing each one onto a separate sticky note. Then we independently grouped sticky notes, regrouped sticky notes as a team, and regrouped again to uncover alternative interpretations and to see overarching patterns.
To save you from sifting through all our sticky notes, the following quotes encompass trends we found. Hover to view the summarized insights.
do the honors,
hover over the button!
do the honors,
hover over the button!
In summary, we identified three key trends from user research.
Bikers prepare for their bike rides using knowledge gained from personal experience.
9 out of 9 users said that experience shapes their behaviors.
Bikers notice a lack of cultural awareness of bikers by the general public.
5 out of 9 users have experienced blatant disrespect from drivers and pedestrians, such as cursing or aggressive actions.
Bikers often happen across hazards they can’t account for.
In addition to unexpectedly obstructed bike lanes, 6 out of 9 bikers said they've been “doored” before, which is when a car door opens without warning into the bike lane and the bicyclist crashes into the open door.
Using the insights from user research, we created personas to represent the information collected in the form of our potential users.
Abby commutes by bike from the East Village to her work in Times Square. Although she finds NYC’s high congestion and poor road conditions irritating, she deals with it because biking helps her save money. What she hates most, though, is having to deal with hazards when she’s unprepared. Because of this, Abby has a habit of always packing every biking essential she may need, such as a helmet, bell, and bike lights, in addition to looking up routes beforehand.
With 10 years of experience biking in New York, Sam considers himself an expert biker. He thinks he’s capable of maneuvering out of any obstacles he could encounter. Therefore, sometimes he’ll take calculated risks in exchange for convenience, such as biking on sidewalks when streets don’t have bike lanes. What he can’t stand are factors he can’t control, such as reckless bikers who go the wrong way down the bike path, occupied cycling spaces, and getting door. That hurts.
We mapped out the personas' current biking situations to visualize their emotions and concerns.
Using the journey map, we pinpointed our users' problems down the following:
Bikers often encountered hazards unexpectedly.
Bikers would benefit from being informed on hazards that could disrupt their journey.
To figure out what our personas actually needed, we looked back to the major findings we learned from user research. We eliminated potential solutions by looking back on the data we collected across user research, personas, and the journey map.
We decided to focus our solution on helping users prepare for unexpected hazards since synthesis from user interviews, personas, and journey maps all indicated that bikers could benefit from being informed on current and relevant road conditions that could impact their safety and disrupt their journey.
Based on the identified opportunity from research, we crafted a problem statement to define the goal our solution should address.
Safety-conscious bikers need a digital tool that allows them to understand current and relevant road conditions to prepare for unexpected hazards while cycling to their destination.
Next, we ideated divergent concepts that addressed our problem statement. We conducted rapid prototyping to create clickable paper prototypes and tested these potential solutions with 5 users for the purpose of user feedback and to determine product direction.
We decided on designing for a mobile phone device because users had mentioned that they already use their phones for navigation apps and looking up information on the go. They were less likely to sit down at a desktop for these types of resources.
A navigation app that provides bike routes based on the user's safety threshold preferences.
Users have options to choose between biking in only protected bike lanes, streets with bike lanes, or all streets. They're given suggested routes that include walking and the subway to compensate for unsafe biking areas. Here is what we learned from concept testing:
Although they understood the safety aspect of walking and subway options, users still didn’t want to have to change modes of transportation when they were already biking.
"If I chose to bike, I really don't want to be walking."
Users thought the ability to ‘avoid all construction zones’ was more helpful to their safety than filtering by ‘bike lane only’ routes. Explained more below.
Bikers often encounter long-term hazards, such as potholes or construction, both in and out of the bike lane. Incident also occur where there is cycling infrastructure.
Because there's already such a ubiquitous product on the market, creating any type of a navigation app would just be a watered-down version of something better.
4 out of 5 users
to existing apps.
Obvious safety reasons.
For these reasons, Concept 1 was out.
An informational resource that displays nearby biker incidents and road conditions in both list and interactive map views.
From the list view, users can tap into a specific incident and see where it occurred on the map. The interactive map allows the tapping on individual incidents for a general summary or additional details. This is what we learned from concept testing:
Although users saw the novelty in aggregating biker incidents into one platform, they still only wanted to see road conditions that would be relevant to their own rides.
"It's sad they got doored, but that doesn't affect me."
Long-term conditions, like construction or potholes, were more likely to have an impact on their daily rides compared to one-off incidents that others experienced.
Our users felt like it'd be a hassle to open this app every day and read through all the information. They weren’t convinced they'd use it regularly.
For these reasons, Concept 2 was out.
A mobile app that sends scheduled push notification alerts about hazards and road conditions along users' routine bike routes.
Users can save routes and schedule when they'd like to receive a push notification informing them of any incidents or conditions along their route. This concept's primary focus is streamlining the presentation of relevant information to users. However, they also have the option to open the notification in order to learn more from an interactive map and list of alerts. Below is what we learned from testing:
They liked how they'd be alerted of only conditions that were applicable to their rides. This sentiment was also iterated in the testing of previous concepts.
Users liked how effortless if was to stay informed. A plus was that they weren't obligated to open the app if reading the notification was enough.
Users were used to variations of navigations apps, such as Google Maps and Waze. An app that revolved around receiving notifications was a novel idea.
"There's nothing like this out there."
We had asked users which concept was most useful in helping them understand current conditions in preparation for their bike ride. Only one user rated it second.
4 out of 5 users
rated Concept 3 as most useful.
We decided to continue in Concept 3's direction.
Our final product solution was Concept 3 with an added customization option to specify the type(s) and severity of conditions users could be alerted of. This feature was included because user feedback indicated that bikers only wanted to see information relevant to their preferences.
Concept 3 had the best potential to address our problem statement and help both our personas by providing each of them with the relevant information they need to prepare for their bike rides, customized to their individual needs and frustrations. Our target audience was routine bikers who had established regular methods of biking. They formed behaviors based on personal experience, had regular routes they biked, and already used navigation apps. Our solution wasn’t going to reinvent the wheel (i.e. replace Google Maps or Waze). The best way we could create something of value to our users was to build a new use case that could fit into their existing routines; and the bikers we concept tested with confirmed the value of this idea.
Provided data should be relevant to each user, individually.
Personalization allows users to tailor their own experience.
Bikers should feel like they're getting ahead of their issues.
We created an app map to visualize how navigation should be structured, showing the connections between various pages. It also helped identify where specific content will be placed and what screens need to be produced.
I created wireframes to show the task flows, step by step. The interface was designed by taking direction from the final product concept, paper prototype, and app map.
A prototype to bring our concept to life with a tangible representation for users to interact with. The mid-fidelity prototype was used for insight into how our solution would actually work for active bikers.
With our prototype, we conducted usability testing to evaluate how easily users interacted with the solution. We tested with 5 New Yorkers who biked at least 4x a week, either with a personal bike or bike share. We gave users a set of tasks to perform within the app.
Task 1: How would you use the app as a first-time user?
Task 2: After seeing the notification the next morning, how would you find out more details about the hazards?
Task 3: How would you update your hazard preferences?
Task 4: How would you customize the frequency you receive notifications?
Specifically, we wanted to learn:
1. If new users could understand the purpose of the app through onboarding
2. If the app was easily navigable with no previous explanation
3. If the overall organization of presented information matched users’ mental models.
The most notable results from our tests are summarized as the following:
100% of users were able to complete every task.
Users didn’t experience any usability issues with our core flow of receiving a notification about hazards.
Users’ perception of what the app offered them matched what we had intended.
They understood the focus on streamlining the presentation of relevant information, with the option further engage for details.
Users had issues with editing hazard preferences (Task 3).
First, 3 out of 5 users looked to edit hazard preferences through the 'Edit' button on the Route Details page instead of going back to the homepage to tap the 'Settings' button, where hazard preferences was located.
Next, when users got to the Hazard Preferences page, 4 out 5 users were frustrated with the dropdown menus. The page had separate dropdowns for each hazard type and only one dropdown could be open at a time. Users found it tedious and repetitive to have to close one to view another.
Lastly, also on the Hazard Preferences page, users were confused by the presence of the ‘Save’ button. They had assumed that choosing an option would automatically save the selection, similar to the confirmation for saving the frequency of notifications.
Due to the constraint of the sprint week, we were able to make refinements for only the last two usability issues.
Dropdown menus can now be opened and closed at the user's leisure.
Because it caused confusion, the 'Save' button was removed. The interaction of the dropdowns was changed to mimic editing the frequency of notifications, where changes made are immediately confirmed with a color change and/or checkmark.
We didn't end up having time to test the refinements made with users. If we were to continue the design process, the first priority would be to conduct another round of usability testing. Additionally, I'd recommend taking another look at the architecture of the preferences users can edit on specific pages.
We'd also want to look into other features to further the product experience:
Setting up multiple notification times per route
Allowing users to view alternative routes to avoid hazards
A reporting feature to crowdsource road conditions data for MyRide
This project really advocated for the entire design thinking process, from knowing next to nothing to creating a prototype solution. Domain and user research were the most indispensable parts of the process; and the research I conducted for MyRide was the most comprehensive I've done for a project by far. Research was essential and so valuable in narrowing down to a solution concept that solved the issues our users actually had.
Working in sprints forced us to either move forward with decisions or pivot to another direction quickly. And backing up all decisions with solid evidence from user research proved to be indispensable in creating a design users wanted to use.