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Research for Equity

ROLE: User Centered Researcher

SKILLS: Research Plan Design, Observational and Personal Research, Journey Mapping

COLLABORATORS. Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) + MA in Social Design class at Maryland Institute College of Art


SUMMARY. As part of a design research module, our class partnered with Baltimore Bike Share, a project of the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). Having just launched in October of 2016, the program is responsible for the largest fleet of electric assisted bicycles in the Western Hemisphere. The program was rolled out in two phases. During phase one, half of the planned bike stations (25) were installed throughout the city.

CHALLENGE. As a new service for the city, and prior to their next rollout, the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) asked requested help in understanding who, how, and when Baltimoreans were or were not accessing this new service.  We also sought to understand if the Bike Share program was a realistic intervention for the city's public transportation deficiencies, an issue that disparately impacts low income communities of color. 

Illustration Design Credit *Irina Wong MASD '17

Illustration Design Credit *Irina Wong MASD '17


1. DEVELOP "HUNT STATEMENT." This helps to clarify our research objective.

Discover how users across different demographics interact with the Baltimore Bike Share, highlighting ways the system can promote equity, inclusiveness, and accessibility

2. SELF-TEST. We used the bikes ourselves while taking notes, pictures, and videos of our     experience to gain a first hand account and empathy for users. 

3. CONDUCT ON-SITE OBSERVATIONS AND INTERVIEWS. We spent time at bike kiosks to watch and talk with bike users as well as individuals who simply pass by in order to better understand their habits and opinions about the program.

4. SYNTHESIZE RESEARCH. Gathering each classmate's observations and interview responses, we clustered information into themes, identified common patterns and interesting threads. 

5. TELL THE STORY. Breaking into smaller groups, we used a variety of deliverables to tell a story about the bike share user experience:

User Demographics = Infographics
User Motivations= Personas
User Journey = Journey Map
User Experience = Digital Sketches, Video, Pictures


The MICA Center for Social Design research project was a tremendous asset for Baltimore Bike Share. Having concluded shortly after system launch, the report captured the public’s initial reaction to the equipment and identified gaps in the system design that were deterring early adopters. The project now functions as a snapshot of initial challenges and has inspired several design changes to improve the customer experience.
— Jay Decker, Bike Share Coordinator