Michelin Project -

Designing a Commuter Bicycle

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Challenge:

Michelin proposed the concept of utilizing their Tweel Technology on a commuter bicycle. We were asked to research commuter bicycling and develop a design a bicycle that would utilize their Tweel Technology. Our research led us to uncovering several user behaviors and insights that directly influenced our design.

Teammates:

Abigail Maeder, Jae Hyuk Kim, Angela Kim

Awards:

2018 IDEA Award Finalist

2018 Chairman Choice Award Bronze

Client: Michelin

Personal Role

Led Design Research, Conducted Interviews, Observational Analysis, Survey Design, Affinity Mapping, Survey Analysis, Personas/User Identification, Insight Generation, Design Recommendations

Duration:

10 Weeks    Jan. 2018- Apr. 2018

Project Overview
Objective
  • The primary objective of the project was to understand how to design a successful commuter bicycle that utilized Michelin Tweel Technology

  • Research objectives Included:

    • Understanding the physical product, limitations, and how people use it.

    • Empathizing with end-users and understanding their motivations and values.

    • Uncovering insights from observations, interviews, and quantitative analysis.

Methodologies Used
  • Observational Analysis

  • Task Analysis

  • Stakeholder Interviews

  • Expert Interviews

  • User Interviews

  • Usability Testing and Analysis

  • Personas/User Identification

  • Survey Design

  • Affinity Mapping

Process
  • I conducted stakeholder interviews to better understand project goals, constraints, and motivations. 

  • We traveled to 4 different bicycle maintenance shops to interview mechanics, salespeople, and other field experts.

  • We setup observation posts during the prime commuting hours (6:45-9 AM and 4 - 6 PM) at major traffic areas in Atlanta to observe bicycle commuters on their commute.

  • We rented bicycles and found users that allowed us to commute to work with them via bicycle.

  • After writing screeners and identifying users, we conducted usability walk-throughs, task analysis, and user interviews.

  • Through the user interviews we identified 4 major commuter types, developed personas, and constructed a mass survey to understand general perceptions of commuting via bicycle.

  • Once all this data was gathered we began our analysis using affinity mapping to identify underlying themes and begin to generate insights based on our findings.

Insights
  • Bicycles are utilized as a more versatile transportation method among commuters, although the general perception is the opposite.

  • The perception of  surveyed users is bicycle commuters have short ( <1 mile ) commutes. 83% of bicycle commuters surveyed commute more than a mile one way, 37% commute more than 5 miles one way. 

  • Cyclists hold drivers responsible for their safety rather than themselves. There is miscommunication between drivers and cyclists.

  • Cyclists are more likely to change their commuting style or adopt multiple styles compared to commuters who use other transportation methods.

  • Cyclists feel their cargo is more secure when it is linked to them, either by touch (backpack) or in their vision (front storage).

  • Experienced cyclists require versatility and novice cyclists require intuitive interactions.

  • People find the existing Tweel design jarring and will likely not adopt the technology.

Design Considerations
  • Redesign of the Michelin Tweel to reflect more familiar bicycle wheels.

  • Traditional double diamond frame design to aide and encourage novice cyclists.

  • Feature set based off of the 4 commuter types identified. Found here: The Four Commuter Types

  • Adaptable storage that can be attached wherever the user desires.

  • E-assist to ease and encourage the users with long commutes. Reduces the chance of over perspiration before arriving to work.

  • Encourage versatility by allowing users to choose features on a dynamic platform.

Result
  • We drove the design of a commuter bicycle from the insights generated.

  • The Bicycle designed can be found here: Flux Commuter Bicycle Design

  • Flux went on to win the Bronze 2018 Chairman Choice Award at Georgia Tech

  • Flux appeared as a International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) Finalist in 2018

Detailed Process
Understanding Objectives & Defining Goals

We began with an interest in understanding and identifying both business and research goals. Through stakeholder interviews with the project advisers at Michelin we identified business goals and began to establish research objectives.

Business Goals:

  • How can Michelin's Tweel Technology be implemented on a bicycle?

  • What are the advantages of this technology in the commuter world?

  • What would it take for people to adopt a Tweel over a conventional pneumatic tire? 

Research Goals:

  • What is the process of commuting with a bicycle?

  • Why do people commute via bicycle? What are their motives?

  • What challenges do bicycle commuters face?

  • How can we create a better commuting experience?

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Michelin Tweel

Identifying & Empathizing with Target Users

To gain general insight and develop our understanding of bicycle commuters we set up an observational study, rented bicycles, commuted with users, and went to bike shops and interviewed mechanics, salespeople, and customers.

Observational Study

The intent of our observation was to better understand the context of bicycle commuting. Through direct contextual observation we would be able to identify external factors influencing the commute, user behaviors, and the general demographic. Typically observations would be set-up in a stagnant area. Since we had to observe commuters, we had to be more coordinated and creative in our set-up.

Observation Set-up Process

  • We identified several major bicycle commuting paths in the city of Atlanta.

  • We observed traffic patterns and noted the busiest times according to google maps data.

  • We split into teams of two and made two posts along the commuting path.

  • Each post would have a photographer and an observer making notes

  • As a user would pass one post the observer would note it and relay the info to the other post so we wouldn't count a user more than once.

  • We observed bicycle commuters during the prime commuting hours (6:45-9 AM and 4 - 6 PM)

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Through the data we collected during the observation I created an AEIOU chart to better define the context of commuting. Through this we were able to begin formulating questions for users as well as begin to identify our target user demographic.

User Process Walk-Through (Doing a Bicycle Commute First-Hand)

After reaching out to potential users we found one that would allow us to follow along on their commute. We rented bicycles and met before their morning commute and walked through their process from preparation all the way to their arrival at the office for work. By experiencing the commute first hand with a user we were able to empathize and understand first hand the struggles of being a bicycle commuter. 

We identified a general process when a user chooses to commute:

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Through our experience we began to identify issues we had with equipment, environment, and ourselves (physical fitness). This experience paired directly with our observations allowed us to develop more detailed research questions for our interviews, survey, and general conversations with users and experts.

Expert Interviews & Market Research

Our observations and walk-through allowed us to pinpoint areas of interest for our store walks and expert interviews. We visited four different bike shops around the Atlanta area to speak with mechanics, salespeople, and customers. 

Some sample questions from the scripts for the mechanics included:

  • Do you/How often do you commute with your bicycle?

  • What equipment would you recommend to a novice commuter cyclist? What about an experienced cyclist?

  • On commuter bicycles, which components do you have to repair/replace most often?

  • What type of tires are typically used on commuter bicycles?

  • Have you noticed an uptick in commuter cyclists depending on the time of year?

  • How would you describe the typical commuter cyclist?

Our market research in stores allowed us to explore products on the market and identify competitive feature sets. We learned more about maintenance of the system, emerging technology in the field, and made contacts with experts to continue conversations.

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These activities provided a strong knowledge base to begin more in-depth research with users. Understanding and empathizing with our target user base allowed us to gain some credibility when speaking with bicycle commuters.

User Interviews, Surveys, & Findings

User Interviews

We interviewed five commuter cyclists, each one a different age from 19-54 years old. We asked about their experience on their current commutes, their equipment, emerging technologies, their motives, and their perception of both cyclist commuters and non-cyclist commuters.

Some sample questions from the scripts for the cyclist commuters included:

  • Tell me about how you started commuting via bicycle.

  • Do you always commute via bicycle?

  • What is your typical commute like?

  • Do you use any specialized equipment or features?

  • What are your expectations when commuting?

  • Tell me about a time where bicycle commuting frustrated you. What about a time it made things easier?

  • What motivates you to continue commuting on your bicycle everyday?

  • What are your biggest concerns when commuting?

All of the interviews were transcribed and coded to help identify themes such as safety, style of commuting, technology, and general user perceptions.

User Identification & Personas

The user interviews led to an identification of 4 user types shown below. We began to categorize previous user interviews and build survey questions around these groups to better understand who our target user will be and how we can design for them.

Adventurous Abby 

Abby is a young businesswoman in her first job. She bikes to work in the city but will detour her route if there is a new cafe, park, or library that's nearby. Abby values her freedom and ability to explore the world around her for her personal enjoyment. She views her commute as an opportunity for adventure.

Values: Flexibility, Spontaneity, Freedom, Exploring New Routes

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Better Betty

Betty is an active health guru who commutes on her bicycle everyday. She has tried and tested dozens of routes in search of the perfect route for her needs. Sometimes these routes are the fastest, easiest, have the most incline, give her the best workout. Betty is constantly looking for a better route, however what she determines is "better" may differ from others.

Values: Efficiency, Improvement, Looking For Better Routes

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Consistent Carl

Carl is a middle-aged school teacher who rides his bicycle on a short commute daily. He has his route planned and continues the path regardless of the situation because it is predictable and he is familiar with the terrain. Carl seeks comfort and reliability from his commuting platform.

Values: Consistency, Predictability, Reliability, Taking The Same Route

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Dashing Danny

Danny, a father of two, just wants to get home from a long day of work and get his kids ready for soccer practice. He will take whatever route or mode of transport that gets him home the fastest. Danny views his commute as wasted time better spent elsewhere and seeks to minimize that time spent.

Values: Speed, Agility, Taking The Fastest Route

Survey

Based on our user interviews we began to formulate various hypotheses based on the qualitative data. We designed a mass survey that would sort users into two main groups of cyclist commuters and non-cyclist commuters to better understand the relationship between the two. Through the survey we were able to better focus our efforts on the design. The 177 user responses allowed us to compare results with previous research methods such as observations, interviews, and personal experience to distill insights that have tangible evidence supporting them.

Cyclists Identify Their Commuter Types

Chose Multiple Types

Chose One Type

Non-Cyclists Identify Their Commuter Types

Chose Multiple Types

Chose One Type

Cyclists Commuter Type Breakdown

Non-Cyclists Commuter Type Breakdown

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We presented the users with four options, based off of our four personas, to classify themselves. They were able to choose any/all of the four options. Approximately 55% of our cyclists identified themselves as multiple commuter types. However, 80% of our non-cyclists identified themselves having a single commuting style. Although the cyclists only barely held the majority of identifying multiple types, the direct contrast of non-cyclists only having 20% identifying multiple types indicates a discrepancy in the perception of the two. This suggests that our users find more flexibility in bicycles compared to other methods of transportation. After speaking about this in detail with several users, we found this to be the case among them. How can we encourage users to utilize this versatility? How can we design a better experience for all commuter types?

Cyclists Commute Distances

Our conversations with non-cyclists indicated that many believed that bicycles could/were only used in commuting short distances (less than 2 miles). Our initial hypothesis also supported their perception of cyclists commuting shorter distances than other modes of commuting. What we found was that only 36% of our cyclists commuted less than 2 miles. The vast majority commuted farther than expected and our largest category was "more than 5 miles" with 35% of our cyclists. 

According to our interviews and survey data, bike commuting has a general perception of going short distances. There is a gap between the perceptions of bike riding from general public and advanced cyclists. How can we bridge that gap and provide a better experience for novice cyclists and encourage commuting via bicycle?

Cyclists Commute Distances

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Cyclists' Perceived Safety

We asked all of our cyclists two questions about how they feel in terms of safety on the road. We asked them to rate how safe they feel when commuting on their bike (1 Unsafe- 5 Very Safe). We then asked them how they perceive the safety of other cyclist commuters when they are driving a vehicle

When driving, how safe do you feel the cyclists are on the road are?

How safe do you feel as a cyclist on the road?

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When people ride their bikes on the road they feel relatively safe, but when they are driving they view cyclists as unsafe. This shows the general responsibility of the cyclist's safety is shifted to drivers. It shows that there is a gap of miscommunication between drivers and cyclists. What can we do to return that shift in responsibility back to the cyclist? How can we close the miscommunication gap between cyclists and drivers?

Affinity Mapping

Based on all of our research efforts (observations, user/expert interviews, brief ethnography, surveys), we made an affinity map with sticky notes of possible topics and findings. By organizing and categorizing these key points, we identified specific topics to begin discovering insights that we could directly relate to our users and the design of a commuter bicycle that meets their needs.

 
Insights
  • Bicycles are utilized as a more versatile transportation method among commuters, although the general perception is the opposite.

  • The perception of  surveyed users is bicycle commuters have short ( <1 mile ) commutes. 83% of bicycle commuters surveyed commute more than a mile one way, 37% commute more than 5 miles one way. 

  • Cyclists hold drivers responsible for their safety rather than themselves. There is miscommunication between drivers and cyclists.

  • Cyclists are more likely to change their commuting style or adopt multiple styles compared to commuters who use other transportation methods.

  • Cyclists feel their cargo is more secure when it is linked to them, either by touch (backpack) or in their vision (front storage).

  • Experienced cyclists require versatility and novice cyclists require intuitive interactions.

  • People find the existing Tweel design jarring and will likely not adopt the technology as it is now.

We focused our product design around the idea of a dynamic commuting platform that can achieve the needs of the 4 user types (Adventurous Abby, Better Betty, Consistent Carl, & Dashing Danny). Designing a system that can change with the user and evolve with them allows us to target all 4 user types and begin to bridge the gap between advanced and novice cyclists. I created an insight poster illustrating the 4 commuter types coming together to create one product. The insight poster was used in our client presentations as an interesting visualization to some of our insights.

Design Considerations
  • Redesign of the Michelin Tweel to reflect more familiar bicycle wheels.

  • Traditional double diamond frame design to aide and encourage novice cyclists.

  • Feature set based off of the 4 commuter types identified. (Adventurous Abby, Better Betty, Consistent Carl, and Dashing Danny)

  • Adaptable storage that can be attached wherever the user desires.

  • E-assist to ease and encourage the users with long commutes. Reduces the chance of over perspiration before arriving to work.

  • Encourage versatility by allowing users to choose features on a dynamic platform.

Value Opportunity Canvas (VOC)

Once we had a firm understanding of who our user groups are and have data to support our observed user needs we were able to begin mapping these to a value opportunity canvas to translate these to a physical product. Through the value opportunity canvas we could clearly map user needs, wants, and fears to help us generate product features that would directly address these.

User Side

Product Side

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Result 
  • We drove the design of a commuter bicycle from the insights generated.

  • Through several iterations and usability testing with physical models and VR/AR a form was designed.

  • Research and product design was successfully presented to client and team of field experts.

  • The Bicycle designed can be found here: Flux Commuter Bicycle Design

  • Flux went on to win the Bronze 2018 Chairman Choice Award at Georgia Tech.

  • Flux appeared as a International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) Finalist in 2018.

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A big thanks to our client Michelin and my project team!

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