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Bikes Vs. Bike Lanes: The Difference is Behaviour Design



by Ashwin Rajan

Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple said his vision for the personal computer was "building a bicycle for the mind'. It was an enduring idea, powerful in its simplicity.

'Computer as vehicle' is a paradigm, among others, that has persisted as a dominant one in technology industry. Its the reason computers have their own assortment of 'ergonomics' and why designers build 'affordances' to help 'drive' or 'steer' or 'control' the user experience.

But today's digital technology, and certainly tomorrow's, is fast mutating past the point where simple paradigms like a bicycle will do. Technology is becoming systemic. It is embedded into our environments - and very lives. It is shaped by the interaction of the technology with human behaviour. So today, designers need to provide more than controls, we also need to provide the opportunities to use them.

A bicycle is designed for riding, and a well-designed bike can have an instant appeal for many people. But it's design by itself might not move many of those people to buy one, ride it often, and over time switch to the bike as their main mode of transport. (People who enthusiastically procure and tryout a new design are 'enthusiasts', but they rarely constitute mainstream markets.)

A bike lane, on the other hand, proposes an opportunity for the 'average' rider, the non-enthusiast, to perform the biking behaviour much more regularly. By biking regularly, the non-enthusiast rider begin to organise her life around this new mode of transport, and in time switches to it. She also starts to appreciate her bike / the product more.

And that's what designing behaviour is about. Think beyond bikes, think bike lanes.

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