Hot button topic – join a research trial for instant bike feedback!

Sep 25, 2018
Hot button topic – join a research trial for instant bike feedback!

Bike Auckland

Many of us have paused along a ride to take a photo and report an issue, or tweet our admiration or frustration. But what if you could instantly record and report your experiences, both positive and negative, with just a click of a button?

Sensibel is a clever new piece of kit that lets you give a quick thumbs up – or a thumbs down – as you go, and fill in the details later. The reports are geotagged to location, and can be easily aggregated and anonymised to determine hot spots for fixing and/or check if bike infrastructure is working as planned. 

Keen to see how it works? Hamish McNair, a PhD student at the University of Canterbury, will be conducting a research trial using Sensibel in Auckland in October, and is seeking willing participants. If you bike along Dominion Road, the Northwestern Cycleway, or in the Central City – and would be willing to add a Sensibel device to your handlebars for a day or two – read on! 

This is your chance to inform decisions about cycle infrastructure and try out some new technology. We want to know what you think of cycling in Auckland, so future infrastructure can be designed to promote the things you consider positive and reduce negative experiences on your ride.

The trial will take place at the beginning of October and will focus on Dominion Road, the Northwestern Cycleway, and the Central City.

If you would like to take part by riding one of these routes on the dates below, please click here to email Hamish for more information.

  • Dominion Road Wednesday 3rd – Friday 5th of October.
  • Northwestern Cycleway Monday 8th – Wednesday 10th of October.
  • Central City Any time between Wednesday 3rd and Wednesday 10th of October.

We are especially interested in people who can complete multiple journeys along Dominion Road and the Northwestern Cycleway during the three-day periods above – e.g. regular commuters.

Alternatively, if you are only able to ride these routes once, or would like to use Sensibel on a ride in the Central City, then we are still keen to hear from you so we can make arrangements for this.

What is Sensibel?

Sensibel promotes more efficient communication between you (the user) and decision-makers responsible for cycle infrastructure. This is achieved by giving people who bike the opportunity to record their day-to-day experiences. These on-the-road insights show how design decisions actually perform in the real world.

And, by providing both positive and negative feedback – what you like and what you don’t – efforts can be focussed on producing more of what works and improving underperforming features.

How does it work?

You can participate by recording points along the way – indicating where you’ve had a positive or negative experience – as you ride. At the end of your journey, you can also add a comment that provides more detail about what it was that you liked or disliked.

The Sensibel button attaches to your handlebars, and synchs to your phone via Bluetooth. This allows you to generate points without taking your hands off the handlebars, while the GPS in your phone records your location. The associated website displays your points on a map, so you can add comments at a time that is convenient for you.

The Sensibel button-app combo – recording sentiment on the go.

What happens with the results?

Aggregating these individual experiences creates a dataset that offers a unique perspective on how cycle infrastructure is performing. Initially this will identify the individual features that are performing well and those that require improvement. Moreover, as people contribute over an extended period of time, the longitudinal nature of this information will help measure the effectiveness of broader strategies that relate to cycling. Also, collecting a national data set will allow everyone to benefit from what is learnt – reducing the likelihood of similar mistakes being repeated throughout the country.

What sort of results have you had so far?

Preliminary testing (in Christchurch) has already produced some interesting results. For example, people like the safety and ease-of-use that bike-specific infrastructure promotes – such as the crossings that are being incorporated into new cycleways. However, concerns have also been raised about how these features now allow cyclists to get around more quickly, and the fresh potential that brings for collisions when sharing routes with pedestrians or navigating obstacles such as blind corners.

A preliminary finding from Christchurch indicates that people like the safety and ease-of-use cycleways provide, but are also concerned at how the free-flowing bicycle traffic they promote can be a danger in the presence of pedestrians or obstacles (like blind corners).

How do the trials fit in?

Trialling Sensibel will help produce a data set that represents multiple people’s experiences of cycling. This will allow us to further develop methods of analysis that support more efficient use of such feedback, and contribute to the continued improvement of cycling in New Zealand.


Email me at for information about any of the trials, or if you would like to know more about Sensibel in general.

— Hamish McNair

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better region. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

Suggest a new ride