CodeAcross Toronto 2018
Hackathons are a great way to challenge your thinking, gain perspective and collaborate with people from various backgrounds and perspectives. I decided to take on a challenge with the BikeSpace team at the Civic Tech Hackathon.
Cycling is a popular alternative to driving in the city of Toronto. However, there is a shortage of parking available, specifically safe parking. Cyclists feel neglected due to lack of updates on issues raised with parking.
We decided to tackle the major problems that cyclists encounter with relation to parking in Toronto.
How can we help cyclists find a safe spot to park their bikes?
Several Toronto cyclists experience the struggle of finding a safe parking spot for their bikes. Many bikes are stolen, parking areas are damaged or non-existent. People are forced to make poor compromises such as locking bikes to railings or trees. Finding a parking space is only the first step. Finding safe parking is an ongoing challenge for cyclists.
Product Manager: Jake Miller
The BikeSpace team’s mission is to provide an innovative solution for cyclists to help them find safe parking for their bikes.
The goal is to encourage cyclists to become involved in flagging parking space issues and create a community. This will strengthen the trust bikers have towards parking in Toronto.
Bikespace wanted to use design thinking to better understand their user’s needs and create a high impact minimum viable product (MVP).
When BikeSpace approached our team with this challenge, we as a group had to discuss and decide where to begin. The developers were ready to jump into Git and start coding, however the designers shared the importance of understanding the problem first before building the solution. We worked as a team and involved the developers and product manager in all process steps.
We first focused on exploring the stakeholders’ project outcomes. We then defined the problems that the product should solve and for whom. We asked questions such as:
What goals and concerns should we address?
Why do these goals and concerns need to be addressed?
We used the “5 whys” approach to get to the core of the problem and it wasn’t easy as we had to probe hard to understand the core needs. We eventually reached our primary goals for the MVP.
1. Cyclists need to find a safe parking spot
2. Cyclists should be able to flag unsafe or damaged parking spots
We only had half a day to find people and survey, we used a random sampling approach. We interviewed 5 different cyclists between the ages of 21–50 years old. Samples of questions we asked:
1. How often do you bike in Toronto?
2. What are some challenges you’ve experience biking?
3. What would you like to see in the future for cyclists?
We reviewed the research with the feedback from the stakeholders and grouped similarities. We were able to quickly identify the major pain points.
1. Finding a safe parking spot
2. Bike parking is non-existent in some locations in Toronto
3. Convincing cyclists of change
4. No follow-ups or updates from the City when requests are sent
I looked at some other products in a similar space. The apps were more focused on parking locations in the area. However, there wasn’t a quick overview of safe parking spots or flagged areas for cyclists to quickly glance through.
Summary of Research
City bike parking installations take a long time and submission for requests and approvals are long and tedious. Follow-ups or updates aren’t provided and this has made cyclists adapt to an unsatisfactory reality. This leads to cyclists parking their bikes in unsafe locations or carrying their bikes indoors due to non-existent parking.
As a group we felt that we needed to bring the parties together and empower cyclists to become more active in the development of bike parking infrastructure.
The most interactive way to quickly find information while you’re on the go is your phone. The BikeSpace team was already heading in the right direction by creating a preliminary version of the mobile app.
We initially began brainstorming as a group to get some ideas on paper and we voted on those we felt were priority and aligned with the user’s goals.
Later, we broke up into smaller groups of 2–3 to discuss our ideas, make flow charts and paper prototypes in further detail. We got back into our original team and shared our ideas, gave feedback and stole from each other to re-iterate our paper prototypes.
Some of our shared ideas included:
- A general parking map for cyclists to find parking in Toronto
2. Heat map filter to identify safe and unsafe parking spots through crowdsourced data
3. Cyclist user page that tracks areas they’ve flagged as unsafe or damaged
Though we had very limited time, we were determined to make a clickable prototype. We jumped into Figma, which allowed us to collaborate and give each other live feedback.
We focused on a general parking map with a heat map filter to identify safe and unsafe parking areas. To empower cyclists we used a ticket system to inform them of resolved or in-progression issues on the user account page. This provides cyclists with instant feedback.
Here’s the link to our prototype.
We presented our journey, findings and prototype to the entire Civic Tech team.
This was my first Hackathon and it was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to experience a lean and agile design process. We had to fight against time to deliver a prototype. I found the collaborative approach to be very effective as we had the entire team involved, product manager, developers, designers, and stakeholders. This encouraged co-creation and we were able to receive feedback throughout each step.
As we only had a day to do this, there wasn’t enough time to do thorough user research and testing on the project. We are keen to do more research as we take this project further.
Finally, I met great people and made wonderful friends. I had an amazing time working with BikeSpace and I’m pleased to share that I’ve joined the team as a Product Designer and will be continuing with them on this exciting journey. I highly recommend participating in the Civic Tech Hackathon as it was an experience I’ll never forget.
Thank you for taking the time to read my case study. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like to chat about design!