Google Maps Custom Bike Routing


Find a screen-based solution to a mobility problem in El Segundo.


Uncertainty about routes is a barrier for bike commutes


Redesigned the interface of Google Maps to create a customizable bike route that shows a live preview of the route and allows for user preferences such as avoiding traffic and hills. My team created intuitive solutions that the users easily understand, and increased confidence in casual bikers, encouraging them to explore.


2 months

My Main Role

User Researcher


Di Xu - User Research
Ross Meredith - Graphic Design
Porfirio Ortega - User Interface Design


Adobe XD, Premiere Pro, After Effects

Concept Video

The final submission to show the concept is a video.

Journey Mapping

Before Trip
End of Trip
Pain Points


Lack of Confidence



😰️“I can only find out if a route if for me through trial and error”
😰️“Is there construction on the road?”
😰️“Can I make it up this hill?”
😱️“The traffic is scary”
😀️“Biking is fun!”
😑️“Where can I lock my bike?”
😀️ “I feel energized!”

Preview Route

Real-time Updates

Select Preferences

See Bike Rack on Route

Add Reports

Journey Mapping

Journey map detailing before trip, biking, destination, and end of trip. It shows the feeling along the trip: "uncertainty" "lack of confidence" "annoyance" and "joy". In uncertainty, it shows the quote "I can only find out if a rout is for me through trial and error" and "is there construction on the road". In "lack of confidence" it says " Can I make it up this hill?" and "the traffic is scary" and "biking is fun". In Annoyance it says " where can I park my bike?" in "joy" it says "I feel energized".

Preview Route

Select Preferences

See Bike Rack on Route

Add Reports

Real-time Updates

0. Defining The Problem: Unsafe Streets for Commuting

Research using field observations and looking at existing documents helps us understand what problems exist that need to be solved.

Field Observations

Type of Riders & Days of the Week
a small amount of younger men on surface streets and on the beach path wearing work clothes (commuters), an equal amount of younger and older men and women on beach paths, mostly wearing cycling gear (atheletes).
people of a variety of gender, age, and abilities bike the beach path. When they are in the city, the are on the way to the beach (casual joy-riders). Many people wearing cycling gear on the beach (atheletes).
A report on bike usage in El Segundo confirmed our informal field observation result that more bikers are recorded during weekends on the beach path than during weekdays.
Biking Experience

Starting from residential area in El Segundo.
Hard to reach
(crossing large streets, busy traffic, no bike lanes) outdoor malls, large gyms, big-box stores, grocery stores, business office buildings, cinema.
Easy to reach
(narrow streets, slow traffic, bike lanes) small local businesses on main street, the beach.

Field Observations - Summary

Safety (of cycling to...)
protected bike lanes
bike racks, shared bike lanes
weekend casual beach riders, athletes
weekday commuters, shopping commuters
main street, local small businesses, the beach
grocery stores, malls, big-box store, gyms, entertainment

Secondary Research

The question “are the streets safe?” is directly linked to how many people cycle, and what kind of people cycle.

Secondary Research - Summary

Cyclists go on side walks = streets are unsafe
“Riding on sidewalks can be an indicator of a lack of bicycle facilities.” Providing bicycle facilities such as bike lanes will help the motorists be aware of bicycles, and make the city safer -   Southbay South Bay Bicycle Master Plan
Few women, children, and older adults cycle = streets are unsafe
When women, children, and older adults are biking, it means the everyone are aware of cyclists and are striving to protect them. Studies have found that creating better cycling infrastructure such as protected bike lanes leads directly to more people who are outside of the athletic-young-male population to bike.
More cyclists = safer streets
According to Vision Zero: and initiaive in Los Angeles aiming to eliminating traffic fatalities suggests the more people commute on bikes, the safer our city streets will be. Making cities friendlier for bikes helps the cities become equitable, healthy, efficient, and clean.

User Interviews

Our team interviewed 5 pedestrians around El Segundo to gather pain points in order to pin point the research question.

Interview Script

What is your name?
Are you over 65+?
Are you working or retired?
What makes you smile?
(Goals)What is some personal goal you'd like to achieve in your daily life?
What types of things do you get out of the house to do?
How do you normally get around your city?
What do you usually need to do?
Could you describe to me the last bike trip that you took?
What is stopping you from biking?
What is motivating you to bike?
How would you bike to go to the stores/the mall?
What is stopping you?
What is motivating you?What would make you want to bike to do (something they've mentioned) in El Segundo?
The residents reported barriers to biking were based primarily in uncertainty, rather than in absent infrastructure. A solution that presents knowledge of the environment will help residents start the trip - and gain confidence.

1. Design Question

Based on observations and secondary research, this design question becomes evident. In order to solve the mobility problem of unsafe commuting streets, we need to ask ourselves as designers:

How might we promote cycling in casual cyclists and specifically older adults?

2. Assumption of The Users

Persona Drafts

based on interviews at DTLA.


Based on interviews in El Segundo.

El Segundo
Technical Comfort:
iPhone. Google maps. Apple maps. not a power-user.
Cyclist Type:
Would like to get healthier, exercise. Wants to be able to not have to drive so much. Wants to discover new places to go with friends.
Ideal Experience
Worried about not being strong enough to bike up hills. Scared about traffic.
Plan and preview the trip ahead of time to gain confidence.
“After picking up biking, I started to see things I’d never seen before in my community; I could literally smell the flowers.”

3. Design Principles

Reduce Uncertainty

Bike routing frequently relies on strong legs and confident attitudes, creating pre-trip anxiety with unexperienced and casual riders.

4. Ideation

Affinity Diagram

An affinity diagram groups ideas and facts into related clusters. It helps my team focus in on a specific problem.


Brainstorming sessions helped my team come up with concepts and ideas before synthesizing.


Creating a storyboard to represent the users’ whole journey using our app helps us focus on the need of the user, and design the interactions to tackle the needs at the right time.
During this process we also came up with initial ideas for prototypes.


Designing the architecture of a stand-alone app. We further developed this app concept in parallel with alternative flows.

5. Concept Explorations

Testing Method
Usability testing
Recruitment Method
Friends and Families

With the UI design and Graphic Design team, we created several concepts to test with users. Each user tested all three concepts, and attempted to complete tasks within a scenario:


If you are planning on going on a bike trip to the coffee shop, how would you use this to find your way?
and answer question such as: Out of these three choices, which one do you prefer?
Is there anything that you expected to see but didn’t?
Concept D
Customizable Routes (Penny Mode) on Google Maps
What is Penny Mode?
✔️ Users understand the interface immediately
✔️ Every user preferred the Google Map add-on over all other concepts.
We found that the population we are designing for, older adults 65+ who bike would use Google map to find directions, but usually before the trip. Once trip starts they tend not to use the app.

If there were real time update of road conditions, they would probably be benefiters instead of contributors.

A new need that is discovered is the need for empty bike locks at the destinations.

6. Iterations

Testing Method
A/B Testing
Recuritment Method
Guerilla recuitement in El Segundo (I asked acquantances as well as attended cultural events, asking people who are sitting around)

After selecting the concept, I worked with the UI desinger to iterate, but we are not certain about two features: 1) appearance of the bike rack indicators 2) interation of the route preferences.  The UI designer created several options that I can test, as well as a working prototype.

Bike Rack Indicators
A: blue, solid
B: green, outline

Reason for choosing B: Rack icon is distinguished more from the location indicator of the bike icon.

A: pop-up, slider
B: pop-up: list
C: card, slider

Reason for choosing C: integrating the preference into the card does not require extra click to find it.

Photos of testing sessions with El Segundo residents.

7. Outcome

We presented the final prototype in class, and received feedback on stickie notes. Our peers enjoyed the presentation of the video, and the use of quotes to help the audience empathize with the people we are designing for.

Some questions arise about how accessible the Google Maps app is currently for older adults, and if this features is implemented, if it would actually make an impact, or address safety concerns.

8. Reflection

Testing is important for correcting assumptions

Older adult cyclists used digital navigational tools more frequently than expected, and also reported problems such as bike-rack-finding that our team did not predict. This shows the importance of testing our assumptions and interviewing.

Ethnographic studies could be helpful for user research

We also found the importance of ethnographic research techniques. Users that we interviewed were more open and relaxed in their own home than out around town. Many artifacts in homes also deliver invaluable insights. If we had more funding and time, we would conduct more ethnographic studies to have a deeper understanding of the people we design for.

Design does not have to go in a straight line

In this project, our team went back and forth with many concepts during ideation and protoyping. This can seem messy but our successful outcome demonstrates the power of a well-designed creative process, centered around user-centric testing performed with an open mind.