During my semester abroad at Carnegie Mellon University, I investigated ways to encourage cycling in urban environments. This project consisted of two stages - first a low tech solution, then a high tech solution. This was primarily a research driven topic, and I learnt many different ways to inform my research and enrich my design process.
I decided to investigate the relationship people had with cycling. Below is a small sample of the different research processes I used along my journey.
For my low-tech solution I decided to challenge the anxiety users had with safety on the road. I wanted to give people the power to interact and affect their own environment, and consider the effects of their own actions. Sometimes you need to disturb a system in order to see its strengths and weaknesses, and I could do that by letting the user create their own infrastructure.
The product will encourage cyclists to cycle by giving them confidence and courage. It will do this by making them feel like they have control over what can be a hostile environment. It will give them a sense of rebellion and power to create change and inspire others. The solution is playful and unique in a very structured world.
The final product is a addition to a bicycle which allows you to create your own bike lane.
The next high tech portion of this project provided me with a much wider scope of possiblities. I could afford to look into the future, and design a product that could create a better society, not just make people think about it.
I identified the dangerous elements of cycling on a road, and the weaknesses of the connection between cyclist and motorist. I also conducted further research into future technologies, such as smart roads, driverless cars, safety innovations and examples of intergrated technology in bicycles.
I decided to design a future system where the physical technology would be mandatory to bicycles. This technology would connect with motorist's GPS navigation, breaking down the barrier of cyclist-motorist communication on the road.
I created a series of storyboards illustrating different scenarios in my system, choosing moments where the digital and physical technology interacts in significant ways.
Finally I modelled prototypes on Solidworks in order to create 3D printed components. I was interested in using 3D printing as the clear material can create some interesting variations in transparency when printing hollow shapes. It also allowed me to quickly create accurate components and visualise how they would interact with a bicycle.
When I began this project I intended to solve problems I had experienced throughout my own life cycling. I discovered many new and different research techniques that alllowed me to explore these problems. The idea of creating social change became the most important motive to me in my work. How could my product create a difference in the world?
I approached this question in two different fashions for my low tech and high tech projects. In my low tech project, I sought to create controversy and conversation through an unsual approach to the issue of cycle lanes. What happens once we cannot blame the lack of cycle lanes for the public’s dislike of cycling? Will cycling lanes solve the problem? I hoped to raise many different questions, engaging people’s minds and forcing them to think critically about the subject of cycling.
For the high tech project, I devised an ideal system for the future. I considered many possible scenarios that could be solved with a simple application of technology. I also considered how bicycles might seem to fit better in a future world of driverless cars by creating communication between differing modes of transport, and putting bicycles “on the grid”. This system can ideally be described as having “two-way situational awareness”. Each component of the design, whether it is physical or digital, is vitally important to the function of the system as a whole. The system allows for equal responsibility for road safety, creating a communicative and understandable environment in what could be described as one of society’s most dangerous spaces.
The throrough amount of research I conducted throughout this semester enabled me to successfully design these products. It became more than just the form and function of the pieces. While these elements are nevertheless vitally important to design, I discovered how design can effect society and human interaction in ways that were before unknown to me.