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. How do these facilities exemplify a BUX and where do they struggle to provide one?
Up first, The Hovenring.
The Hovenring is a suspended bicycle roundabout connecting several bike paths over a large intersection in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. It serves as a functional connection, local landmark and tourist attraction alike.
How does the Hovenring measure up to usability principles? Is using it simple, comfortable, convenient and enjoyable? Does it meet the practical and emotional needs of people of all backgrounds?
Above: What constitutes a "Bicycle
User Experience"? (Graphic by Author)
To explore these questions, we can conduct a heuristic evaluation. A heuristic evaluation allows us to systematically examine an interface (e.g. the street) to judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the “heuristics"). These usability principles describe how easy and pleasant something is for human beings to use (is it "usable"?).
Overall, the Hovenring does a great job at providing a Bicycle User Experience (BUX). It is highly forgiving: you can wobble, swerve, and stop without negative consequences. A small child with training wheels could ride on it without worry. There is also a high degree of visibility- even from a distance, it is easy to see how navigate the infrastructure and how it is connected to the larger street system.
The user (an everyday person) has a remarkable amount of control over his/her experience on the Hovenring: one can go at the speed desired and stop and go when necessary. If someone forgets to eat their breakfast on their way to work, they can easily finish it while riding on the Hovenring without any fear of danger. As such, the infrastructure does a fantastic job of fulfilling the hierarchy of needs. It first meets people's basic needs for safety & security, functionality, and reliability and then additionally provides enjoyment and awe.
The Hovenring's lowest rating comes on cost-benefit. Compared with driving a car through this intersection, riding a bike is not as fast. It helps that people riding bikes do not have to stop at a traffic light, but the highway-like conditions in the area decrease the bicycle's value in relation to motorized modes of transportation.
In summary, the Hovenring is both a functional and symbolic piece of infrastructure. It is pleasant and simple to use, and it elevates the social status of people riding bikes- a critical part of normalizing everyday biking. Despite being located in an auto-oriented area, it fulfills usability principles within the context of the site. Most importantly, it does this for everyone: a 5 year old child learning to ride a bike, a middle-aged couple, and an 85 year old grandparent that hasn't ridden a bike in years alike could all enjoy it.
Up next, we will examine a "disco tunnel" that turns the atmosphere of an underpass into a party.
Hovenring Eindhoven - ipv Delft
Spectacular New Floating Cycle Roundabout
Video of the Hovenring at night