2022-07-04 7 min read


Notes, 2022-07-04.

As a designer, I create new interfaces for bikes and scooters. I have a long running debate with two friends who work in city transport planning. Which has more impact on the cycling experience: bikes or bike lanes?

Can a cleverly integrated display or haptic navigation effect ever trump improved street signage or increased junction radii? A good experience is the sum of both the products we use and the environment they exist in. Yet when designing small vehicles like these, I agree with my friends that most of the design effort would be better applied to improving the street environment than iterating on the product details. Perhaps bike manufacturers seeking to increase the number of cyclists would have a bigger impact by simply seconding their design staff out to support city councils?

Coming from a product manufacturing mindset, this felt uncomfortable at first. In re-thinking the boundaries of what it means to design a good product I considered abandoning my career entirely and finding a job in local government. For now, though, I’m comfortable doing what I can from the other side, bridging the conversation and encouraging clients to explore approaches to changing user behavior beyond just adding new technology to a bike.

-George Cave

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~23% of opens) was the US DOD's guide to detecting "Agile BS".

In the Members' Slack, a bunch of us are fans of Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future and were excited to see airships making the jump from science fiction. Fingers crossed for a The Prepared meetup in the skies in 2032. In the meantime, there is a meetup scheduled in Seattle on 2022-07-06 hosted by Cindy.

Planning & Strategy.

  • Far outside the city center, London is encircled by a single giant motorway: the M25. During the 1960s, serious attempts were made to build many more concentric ring roads right into the heart of the city. Road building is often seen as the antithesis of sustainable urban transport planning, but the advocates of these schemes were in some ways the environmentalists of their time. Complemented by inventions such as resident-only parking zones and London’s first bus lanes, these giant ringways were designed to discourage car use, banishing cars from view and restoring ‘civilized life’ to the city. Thankfully, the M25 was all that emerged from the original scheme. Yet the ambition to banish the cars was ultimately achieved: London today has a superb public transport network and driving into the city center is a rare event for most residents. As we embark on programs to rebuild our cities and tackle climate change we might learn the lesson that it is often patient, incremental improvements to public services, not flashy, blank-sheet visions, that succeed.
  • During the 1950s, Project Plowshare was the US Atomic Energy Commission’s exploration into using the energy released from atomic explosions for large-scale excavation. They blew test craters in southern Nevada and planned an alternative to the Panama Canal through Nicaragua (nicknamed the Pan-Atomic Canal). I’m particularly fascinated by the story of Project Chariot, which sought to use nuclear bombs to create an artificial harbour in Alaska. This project was one of the first government initiatives to be challenged on environmental grounds, and it was ultimately halted by a coalition of conservationists and local Inupiat.
  • Cost-benefit analysis for transportation schemes requires a calculation of the Value of a Statistical Life. For example, Transport for London values your life at £3,229,114 (~$4 M). A related concept is the micromort, a unit defined as a one-in-a-million chance of a lethal outcome in a given situation. Combining these two measures can lead to some interesting analysis, such as the fact that each £1 raised by charity skydiving in the UK costs the National Health Service £13.75.

Interface design.

Making & Manufacturing.

Inclusive design.


In 2015, Ford recalled 13,500 Lincoln SUVs because drivers were turning them off by mistake on the highway. See if you can spot the interface problem.

Read the full story

The rest of this post is for SOW Subscribers (free or paid) only. Sign up now to read the full story and get access to all subscriber-only posts.

Sign up now
Already have an account? Sign in
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Scope of Work.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.