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Understanding Context

The context of cycle use and cycle parking affects the circumstances of theft and so a clear understanding of context of use (and theft) is essential to any design-led anti-theft strategy.

Understanding the context of any parking event, and any theft of a ‘parked’ bike, requires the designer to consider:











It also requires consideration of how the people experiencing the parking event described above may behave and, as has already been stated, the designer’s skill of drawing meaning and insight from these observations is an important part of what they offer. Whilst user-focused design practice is becoming more mainstream, there needs also to be an understanding of the context of use, requiring consideration of multiple ‘users’ and an understanding that not all ‘users’ react in the same ways to products and services, nor in the ways envisaged.

The term ‘users’ doesn’t accurately describe the relationship between the design and those whose experiences and actions need to be considered so the term ‘actors’ is used to describe those individuals whose ‘actions’ impact on the context.

‘Actors’ may have a positive relationship with the parking event (cyclist, security guard) or a negative relationship with the parking event (bike thief, obstructed pedestrian). Consideration of these actors and the behaviour that the designer wants to both encourage and prevent from them is central to designing an appropriate strategy that will deter abuse or theft.

It is useful to consider each actor’s behaviour in relation to your proposed design from the perspective of ‘risk’, ‘effort’ and ‘reward’. A successful solution is likely to be one that reduces risk (of theft) and effort (of use) and increases reward (enjoyment, aesthetics, convenience) for positive actors (a cyclist or passer by) whilst increasing risk (of getting caught) and effort (of stealing) and reducing reward (of theft) for negative actors (a bike thief).

When there are conflicts between desired outcomes (for example “my solution is really secure but takes slightly longer to use”) then it is up to you as the designer to mediate these conflicts and justify your reasoning for the way in which you
do so.

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