Cycling is our least-understood and potentially most transformational mode of movement in cities.
Sensibel is a participatory platform that enables citizens to share their cycle commute stories by quickly placing a positive or negative “experience point” along their journey. Later, each cyclist can annotate their experience points with text and images.
Responding to commuters’ experiences
One of the Council’s strategic priorities is to increase the use of active and sustainable transport options, such as walking, cycling, and buses.
Planning decisions are currently based on research undertaken at a specific time of year, or in review of a new piece of infrastructure. There’s currently no in-depth understanding of the people-centred everyday experience of cycling.
Commuters who enjoy their journey are more likely to continue using that transport mode, and to motivate others to join them. Sensibel lets us gather feedback from cyclists, and then use that feedback, good and bad, to keep improving our transport system.
How Sensibel works
Sensibel was created by local Fab Lab Fabriko, a social enterprise that fosters innovation though community collaboration.
The solution uses both a software app and a button device to record commuter feedback. The 3D printed button attaches to the handlebars of the bike, and uses Bluetooth to pair with the Sensibel app on the cyclist’s phone.
The Sensibel button is simple to use on the move, so cyclists can safely register their feedback as they ride. A press of a button expresses a positive or negative reaction, whether it’s a dangerous pothole, a section of road where merging with cars is difficult, or a change to a cycleway that has improved their journey.
Commuters can submit a comment or add photos in the app at the end of their journey, and the app displays all users’ feedback anonymously on a dashboard.
Prototype and trial
The first Sensibel prototype was trialled at the end of 2017. The trial’s feedback was used to refine the app and Sensibel button.
In April 2018, we distributed fifty re-designed buttons to cyclists around Christchurch. These cyclists are beta testing the user experience of the app and the device, and submitting their feedback of “good” and “bad” cycling experiences around Christchurch. Whilst this trial is in progress, we are understanding what would motivate and incentivise people to engage with the platform and cycling in general.
What are we doing with the data?
The Sensibel dashboard software provides maps and reports on commuter experiences. A heat map gives an easy-to-understand overview of commuters’ experiences and commuter flow throughout the day. Whether it’s a cluster of negative reports at a troublesome intersection, or a high commuter count on a route with consistent positive feedback, transport planners can see at a glance what’s working well and what needs attention.
The system also provides detailed reports, as well as anonymised user comments. This data helps planners to pinpoint the positive features that make certain routes so enjoyable, and enable maintenance teams to quickly eliminate hazards.
We are monitoring the uptake and retention of trial users with the button and platform. As more data arrives, we will begin analysing the data and generating insights to share with both the cycling community and transport planners.
The app has already been released on the Google Play and iTunes stores, and we are investigating with the Council Cycle safety teams whether the buttons could be used by schools looking to improve cycle safety. There is also a great opportunity for organisations moving into the city who are committed to changing how their people travel to work.