Bike Funchal


Madeira is a volcanic island with a rugged and challenging topography. Though the capital city, Funchal, has a bus system, most residents rely on a car to traverse the steep inclines and declines that are common and characteristic of the island. In an age of climate change and high fuel prices, how can Funchal transition to a more sustainable transportation system, and thus lower emissions of harmful greenhouse gases?

The CIVITAS MIMOSA (Making Innovation in Mobility and Sustainable Actions) initiative, a project co-financed by the European Union, sponsors empirically-based experimental initiatives that have the goal of promoting sustainable urban mobility. Funchal is one of the five cities in the European Union that is participating in this project.

Our goal was to design a new service that would further promote the use of sustainable transportation in Funchal, while reducing traffic congestion and the emission of greenhouse gases. After designing our service, we presented our proposal to stakeholders from CIVITAS MIMOSA and the Câmara Municipal do Funchal (Funchal City Hall).

The following video demonstrates our final bike plan for Funchal.


In order to understand Funchal’s potential for a bike program, and the existing state of bicycle use and infrastructure, we did the following:

  • Background research of other bike programs — mostly those in hilly cities.
  • Observed bicyclists to get a sense of who is riding and when they are riding
  • Interviewed experts in sustainable transportation planning
  • Rented bikes and rode on a bike path in Funchal


No one we surveyed said they would commute by bicycle with the current infrastructure. The main concerns that discouraged people from riding a bicycle are safety of bicycling, the comfort during the trip, and the time it takes to commute by bike.

The background research we conducted led us to some novel design solutions that other cities employed to make bicycling accessible and desirable. The hilly city of Trondheim, Norway, constructed a bike lift (much like a ski rope tow) that a bicyclist can ride up a steep hill in the city. This would later become an important feature of our bike plan.

In order to visualize who would be affected by and invested in a sustainable transportation plan, we made a stakeholder map.

After defining the pool of stakeholders, we further refined our focus by consolidating our user research data into personas.

A persona for Orlando Freitas

Orlando Freitas persona


Using the service design framework and methodology, we came up with the following models and documents that articulated our vision for increasing the frequency and ease of bicycle commuting:

Customer Journeys showing the various paths customers could take to interact with different points of our service.

Service Blueprints diagramming the nature and stages of the service interaction, including the backstage processes not visible to the customer.

Cost-Benefit Matrix to evaluate the feasibility and value of implementation of various features of our service plan.

Stages of Implementation (below) show roadmaps for rollout of our plan.

Stage 2 of bike plan implementation

Validation and Iteration

In order to empathize further with our service’s potential users, we conducted several service enactments to understand and further refine the customer experience. After iterating based on our service enactments, we then went to experts to validate our ideas.

From our expert interviews, we came away with the following key recommendations:

  • Make electric bicycles a key component of our plan. Electric bicycles will make the extreme inclines less daunting.
  • Put buses on the radial routes and connect them to electric bike stations.
  • Hold public events like Sunday street closings to increase awareness of bicycles and invite participation from more people.
  • Start with basic infrastructure (bike lanes) and work on getting people into the habit of bicycling before proposing more elaborate infrastructure (like bike lifts).


To communicate and promote our ideas to a wider audience, we made a video that shows how our target customers would use our service. Using a stop-motion video, we portrayed how our personas Paula (played by me) and Orlando (played by José Rodrigues) participate in our proposed bike plan for Funchal.

Key Features of our plan include:

Attract and orient cyclists with

  • Bike-specific traffic signals and signage
  • Painted bike Lanes on roads
  • Isolated bike paths
  • Bike racks at shopping centers

Invite cyclists to interact with

  • Bike lifts on major inclines
  • Electric and conventional bike rentals
  • Special high-capacity bike-friendly buses

Retain cyclists and advocate for increased participation with

  • Sunday bike events (like Sunday street closings)
  • Introduction of a smart card (EcoFX card)
  • Rewards for employees who commute
  • Motivational displays for bike commuters

Motivational display for commuters

In June 2011, the team presented the final plan to stakeholders from the Câmara Municipal do Funchal and Lógica.


Background Research | Competitive Analysis | Expert Interviews | Storyboarding | Logo Design | Voice-Over | Video Prototyping


Illustrator | Photoshop | Indesign | Omnigraffle | Visio | PremierePro | Service Enactment


Câmara Municipal do Funchal (Funchal City Hall) | Lógica


5 months


Service Design

Team Members

Daniel Freitas, Wilmer Gonçalves, Tiffany Ng, José (Zé) Rodrigues