Citymapper Cycling

An idea to improve the user experience of Citymapper's cycle route-planner.

Project Date
London, UK
To channel my frustrations from getting lost whilst cycling

Citymapper is a web-based transit application that helps people in cities around the world get from A to B using public transport.

In London, it is considerably more reliable and accurate than the widely used Google Maps, particularly for journeys on the bus and tube. But the cycling feature isn’t noticeably different, and is an area where I think there is room for improvement.

When I cycle somewhere new in London (and having only recently moved to the city, this is quite often), I always plan my journey before hitting the road. Previously, I lived in New York, where it was easy to orient myself in its hierarchical system of streets and avenues. But in London’s labyrinthine medieval network, navigation is much more difficult.


The following are some personal observations from my morning commute:

  • The route looks complex, with plenty of opportunity for me to miss a turn.
  • To ensure I stay on course, I will have to consistently check the app, and like most urban cyclists, I don’t have my phone fixed onto my handlebars, so pulling it out is a cumbersome task.
  • There is no audio navigation, a Google Maps feature that some people use, however I feel it is less safe wearing headphones while cycling in any case.
  • There is no indication of how cycle-friendly the streets are, or where I might need to be particularly aware.
  • “Go” doesn’t improve the user experience, it simply re-centres the map.


The Data

The route of my morning commute is not as arbitrary as it seems

London has developed an impressive collection of designated cycle routes over the past decade, rather dramatically named “Cycle Superhighways”. Numerous “Cycle Quietways” complement this network.

These routes are (reasonably) well marked out, with signage, coloured road markings, and designated laneways, not to mention a high volume of cyclists travelling on them

Transport for London have made this data publically available, and it has been uploaded by users to OpenStreetMap, an open license map of the world.

The image opposite, taken from OpenStreetMap, shows my commute broken down as a series of sections within the cycle network. As you can see, almost all of this journey takes place on designated cycle routes.


The Idea

Improve the user's understanding of their journey prior to setting off

Referring back to my planned trip on Citymapper, it’s clear how the user experience could be improved by showing designated cycle routes.

Breaking down the journey into a series of constituent sections would allow the user to relate their journey to the cycle routes that are indicated in the real world, reducing the necessity to refer back to the app while cycling.

In my case, I would know that I need to take CS7 as far as Blackfriars Bridge, and then turn onto Q11 for one mile before taking Q13 right to my office door. I would know when to look out for important turns, and when I can simply follow the road markings along a designated route. It would make my journey more straightforward, helping me to enjoy my cycle in the city.