Portfolio: Social Cycle

Collaborative navigation for cyclists

thesis image

Social Cycle is a collaborative social navigation system for the commuter and hobbyist cycling communities in Raleigh, NC. Members map directions via recommended bicycle routes, roads with less traffic, and bike-friendly shortcuts like parks and greenways.

Participants may interact with each other asynchronously through comments and synchronously as they encounter each other or approach each other along their routes. Riders can also sync it with GPS-enabled mobile devices to keep track of mileage, speed, friends, and favorite routes. New members of the community and visitors may find it more helpful for wayfinding, while experts or consistent participants might appreciate the social features, safety features, and contribute updates.

The overall system incorporates the web, mobile devices, markers in the environment, and a community of willing contributers. The studies created within this project, however, show a sample of the mobile interface’s capabilities. While the reflective “plan” mode is more detailed and allows users to explore the route at different levels, the “ride” mode, only provides the most essential information: directional cues, safety prompts, etc. The rider may choose a variety of visual, auditory, and/or sensory cues to customize her navigational experience.


Melissa is new to cycling in Raleigh. She classifies herself as a hobbyist. She still drives a car to get to work, but she tries to use her bike when she goes out with her friends. She wants to learn better routes for cycling to certain destinations in Raleigh, and is concerned about her safety, especially when dealing with cars on the road.

Today she is going to the North Carolina Museum of Art, but she has never gone to the museum on her bike before. The only routes she knows are by car. She speaks “North Carolina Museum of Art” to the system. By default, the system displays routes with moderate to light traffic.

A map from her current location to the museum appears. Several points are highlighted along the route. She can trace the route with her finger to zoom in for a closer look.

Zooming into the path reveals grade changes along the route. She also sees different points moving along the route; these are other cyclists who are currently using parts of the route she has selected and who are also simultaneously logged into the system. Melissa could send them a message if she feels like riding with a new friend, or if she needs to alert others nearby regarding conditions of the route.

A fellow community member has added notes at a dangerous intersection along Melissa's intended path...

…and suggests a safe way around it to reach the Reedy Creek greenway, the safest path to the Museum.

Before she departs, Melissa activates the multisensory alert options to receive auditory and tactile cues regarding directions along this unfamiliar route, in addition to the large visual directional cues that will remind her of upcoming turns and necessary stops.

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