Updated: Dec 23, 2021
I attended the Bicycle User Experience open course last winter and got inspired by the methods presented there. Here follows a text that expand a bit on the methods we used in Cykefrämjandets Cycle Route analysis project. For a summary of the analysis, see last post.
The first step in the analysis was to decide what routes to focus on. The volunteers, who knew the cycle network well, made the decision based on what they though were the most important routes. We also got input from traffic planners in the city about what routes they thought were the most important.
The volunteers then did an inspection of the route, either together or individually, with the help of our Handbook for Cycle Route Analysis, which contain our Checklist for Main Cycle Routes. The inspection is a variation of the Heuristic Evaluation in which the volunteers examine the street interface. The checklist is made up of principles that we know are important for the quality of the infrastructure. Each principle is written like a statement, e.g., "Along sections should there not be any sharp or unexpected turns". After you have cycled the route, you make a note in the checklist for the average score. You do not have to count the number of sharp or unexpected turns you found or the turn radii at those places. Based on your experience of the ride, you mark if this statement is "Not true", "True to some extent", True to a large extent", or “Completely true” for the route.
The handbook contains a short description for each principle to guide the participants. The idea is to make judgements of qualitative character and focus more on people's experiences and feelings rather than to measure or count elements in the physical landscape. It is certainly possible to measure many of the principles in the analysis, but one does not have to. E.g., for the statement "At intersections should the speed of crossing motor traffic be low", then you do not have to measure the actual speed of traffic. If you feel that the speed of motor traffic is not low enough for you to feel safe at the intersection, then make a note about it and bring it up on the workshop.
To get a good idea of how people experience a certain route, various people must do the evaluation. We noticed it can vary a bit what people find as e.g., safe or comfortable. During the analysis, participants could either fill out the checklist on paper, or in a digital form created in Google forms. The participants were also encouraged to take photos of the places that they found problematic or places that they liked.
The following step was a type of user experience mapping. The photos of the route could be uploaded to a shared map in Google my maps. All the participants had access to the same map, in which the route(s) were marked out. One could write a comment for each photo. Since it is not possible to upload photos in the Google My Maps mobile app, this step had to be done by the computer.
The shared map and the digitally uploaded checklists were then used to prepare the cycling workshop. We discussed the findings that the volunteers had made and decided for where to stop and what problems to bring up during the workshop. The local planners, politicians, and the local newspaper were invited to the workshop.
The cycling workshop were then carried out with the volunteers, planners and/or politicians. The workshop took about 2 hours and were about 7-9 km long. We did around 10 stops along the way. For each stop there were some questions prepared to the planners or politicians. Why is the bikeway designed the way it is? Why we think it is a problem (or in some cases, a good solution). What can be done to change this? To cycle together created great conditions for a fruitful dialog between the different actors. The ride also resulted in a shared understanding of the problems within the cycle network. Some examples of common problems that we found during the analyses:
Intersections that were difficult or unsafe to pass.
Narrow paths were walking and cycling were mixed, where conflicts easily aroused.
When there is a lack of space, e.g., in more central parts of the city, the cycle path is often made narrower rather than the driving lane next to it.
Narrow cycle paths where it can be difficult to pass oncoming cyclists' or fit with a cargo bike.
Obstacles in the cycle paths, e.g., poles for traffic signs.
Signs for wayfinding are missing or are of poor quality.
After the workshop we summarized everything in a short report with the most important finding and some recommendations for the city. The report contains a map of the route, photos of some places discussed in the workshop, and a filled-out checklist for the route. You can find the reports (in Swedish) on our webpage. The reports were sent to all the participants at the workshop and the local volunteers are encouraged to do a follow up after a year to see if anything has changed. We hope that the dialog will continue between the involved actors. See more: https://cykelframjandet.se/vad-vi-gor/cyklisternas-cykelvagsanalys/