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Improving NYC's Citi Bike through Practical Design Fictions


Design in Public Spaces is a first-year MFA course that pushes interaction designers to explore ways in which ubiquitous technology can transform the everyday experience of urban public space.

This semester, students in Jill Nussbaum’s class were approached by NYC Bike Share, better known as the parent company of New York’s Citi Bike transit program, to focus on improving the service experience. With tens of thousands of annual members, Citi Bike has proven wildly successful for New Yorkers looking to borrow a bike on a regular basis. For new and casual users, however, there is still room for improvement in accessing the fleet of several thousand blue bikes. NYC Bike Share asked students to examine how the purchase of day and limited-use passes could be improved through mobile and newer technologies.

Working in groups, students examined real-world cases through immersive research and interviews. They studied the pain points common to a first time user’s experience. While language barriers and unfamiliarity with a new system were prevalent, closer inspection revealed frustration with payment practices and restrictions that could easily dissuade tourists. In their strategies to make realistic improvements, students developed fictional narratives that demonstrate ideas within reach. Here is a selection of their work:

Explorer – Is a mobile app that creates a unique biking experience for tourists in NYC.

Enhancing Citi Bike’s User Experience – Looks at how the system can better instruct new users at relevant moments and places upon acquaintance.

Citi Bike Ride – Prepaid retail guest passes to get going even quicker.

A Design Fiction for Citi Bike – Investigates how Citi Bike might seamlessly integrate with other tourist friendly services and experiences.

The response from NYC Bike Share has been genuinely positive, with continued discussion to implement some of the ideas presented within the body of work. The class and department extend a special thanks to NYC Bike Share director of marketing Dani Simons and marketing manager Will Bissell, who acted as guest critics on the project.

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