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Disco Tunnel: BUX In Practice

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

How might a Bicycle User Experience (BUX) look in practice? The BUX Blog will be exploring 7 pieces of existing infrastructure that represent user experience and usability principles. Second, a Disco Tunnel.

In the suburban city of Zoetermeer outside of The Hague in The Netherlands, a large freeway and railroad split different parts of the town apart. At one train station along this corridor, a tunnel provides a connection for people walking and biking from both sides of town. This “disco tunnel” has disco lights that come on at night to make riding a bike feel like a party.

How is the experience of riding a bike for an everyday person here? Does the disco tunnel provide a Bicycle User Experience (BUX)?

To survey the experience and usability of street infrastructure, we can use a heuristic evaluation. A heuristic evaluation uses established design principles that measure how easy and pleasant something is to use ("usable"). A heuristic evaluation should be done by actually trying out the infrastructure and observing others use it. Multiple people with different perspectives conducting the evaluation yields more robust results. Below is a heuristic evaluation of the disco tunnel.

Overall, the disco tunnel scores very high. To start, it is simple and intuitive to use; there is no unnecessary signage or markings and the visual and physical experience is consistent. The disco tunnel is also highly forgiving- you do not need to be a professional cyclist to ride a bike here, and there are no major dangers if you mess up while riding. As such, people have a large amount of user control in it. People are not held at the will of traffic lights or motor vehicles; they control their experience while in the disco tunnel.

What elevates the disco tunnel above other safe pieces of bike infrastructure is that it evokes positive feelings and really creates an experience for the user. That is why it scores well on the hierarchy of needs.

However even with its strengths, visibility inside the tunnel could be improved and for a new user it is not immediately obvious upon approaching how it connects to the larger street network. The cost-benefit ratio for riding a bike in Zoetermeer is also worse than that of riding a car. It is still very easy to drive a car in the city which makes the bike comparatively less attractive.

The disco tunnel goes out of the way to make people feel good while riding a bike. It makes a mundane tunnel fun and elevates the status of riding a bike. It is safe but it also goes further and creates an experience for the everyday person using it. While it is located in a larger street network that prioritizes cars and its visibility could be improved in certain spots, the disco tunnel overall is a great example of cycling experience in practice.

Up next, we will examine a college campus in Northern California that some consider the best place for everyday biking in the United States: UC Davis.


Night Cycling Network nominated for Dutch Traffic Safety Award

Discotunnel én Nachtnet Fiets echt open (Dutch)

'Nachtnet van Fietspaden' in Zoetermeer (Dutch)

Nachtnet Fiets - Gemeente Zoetermeer (Dutch)


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