JapanTravel Bike is an online reseller built on top of Docomo's bikesharing service enabling travellers to rent bikes for a day around various cities in Japan including highly visited tourist locations such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nara.


  • Branding
  • Product Design
  • Front-end Development

The Impact

  • Reduced bike unlocking times by 225%
  • Reduced bike return issues by 99%
  • Average session per user increased by 18%

Kicking off

Bike sharing is a popular concept around the world and a variety of these programs exist in global cities such as New York, Amsterdam and nowadays in Tokyo.

Docomo’s initial bicycle service was not provided in other languages than Japanese and the time to unlock a bicycle took approximately 10 to 15 minutes. This is why JapanTravel Bike started as a service for travellers.

To validate the concept of this service we first developed an MVP by reusing design patterns from an older product. The concept turned out to be a success when a stream of bicycle passes were purchased and travellers started using the bicycles.

“I Think it’s really useful to be able to rent a bike for a day so that you can avoid crowded public transportation. Especially for short distances such as Shibuya to Harajuku.”
JapanTravel Bike User

The next challenge

After validating the concept it became the task to improve and iterate the MVP for a better user experience and to get rid of the current pain points. This led to the question: How can we optimize the current user-flows of common functions such as buying and using a bike pass?

JTBD Needs Pain Points
Unlocking a bicycle
  • A bike pass
  • An available charged bicycle
  • Ability to unlock the bicycle
  • Ability to unlock multiple bicycles
  • Finding the bicycle code
  • Knowing which bike pass is attached to what bike (on breaks)
  • Finding out if the bicycle is unlocked
Returning a bicycle
  • Finding the nearest bicycle port
  • Ability to lock the bicycle
  • Internet availability
  • Knowing which bike pass is attached to what bike
  • Knowing whether the bicycle is locked properly
Finding a bicycle
  • Find nearest bike port with available bicycles
  • Finding a charged bicycle
  • Find the nearest bicycle port with a charged bicycle

Unlocking a bike in seconds

We prioritized to reduce the amount of time taken to unlock a bicycle as the primary user goal was to use a bicycle, not the app itself.

To optimize this flow I created a task-flow of the steps taken from start to unlocking a bicycle to get an overview of where we could increase speed. It turned out that there were 3 bottlenecks that could be optimized.

  1. The sign up flow
  2. Checkout confirmation
  3. Unlocking a bicycle

As optimizing the first option came with potential security risks I focussed on optimizing the second and third bottlenecks.

JapanTravel Bike taskflow
Optimized Task Flow

One for all

Data revealed that users in groups would generally order more passes on 1 account rather than separate. In other words, users needed the ability to register multiple bikes within 1 interface efficiently.

The bottleneck was that users could not figure out which bicycle belonged to what pass resulting into a lot of front and back clicking between screens. The problem was caused by a set of technological constraints consisting of a limit on API calls.

Working closely with the lead engineer, Ahammad Reyad, I designed a new process by only having an API call when users pressed a primary action button rather than having a call for every pass on pageload.

Using Dan Saffer’s micro interaction concept of bringing the data forward I designed a pass where users could instantly see which pass was attached to which bike in one overview.

JapanTravel Bike unlock flow

I tested the concept on a handful of users with an Invision prototype to validate the new flow. Through user testing we found out that the concept was faster, but users did not always know how to unlock their bicycle. Using visual cues combined with help modals aided users on how to unlock their bike without interrupting their flow, reducing unlock and locking times by 225%.

JapanTravel Bike versions

Returning a bike

One major pain point was that sometimes users would forget to return their bike in time, resulting into an automatic renewal when this was not intended. We fixed this by creating extra friction in the process and adding several nudges.

The extra friction is a heads-up message when the user is about to unlock a bicycle combined with sending them an email as a reminder. One hour before midnight, when the passes renew, we would show a count down of the amount of time left and send them another reminder if the bikes were still unlocked.

Adding the extra friction and nudges reduced the bicycle return rate issues by 99%. As the online solution relies on users returning a bicycle we have a customer support center to guide users in the rare case where a user has lost a bicycle or did not return one.

Pass Renewal in:

One-Day Passes Will Auto-renew for the following day if any activated bike has not been returned by midnight

Finding a bike

The biggest frustration users had was that we were not able to detect if bikes were available at a bike port caused by having to rely on a limited API. This meant that a user would have to walk all the way to a bike port with the risk of no bikes being available.

To get around this issue we created a new reservation service where users can pre-book a bicycle for the next day at a designated bike station. This way we could guarantee travellers could start their day with a full-charged bicycle and have no issues in finding one. As a bonus we added in city cycling guide increasing the user satisfaction and reducing frustration.

JapanTravel Bike prebooking


Since JapanTravel Bike is a new service I have also created its branding. As it's a sub-brand of JapanTravel.com I used the same color schemes used in JapanTravel's branding. I decided to keep the logo simple and created a bicycle logo with hidden initials of JT.

JapanTravel Bike logo

I created additional marketing assets including stickers that were placed on the back of the bicycles. The main challenge here was getting approval of all governments involved with the project, however by creating a variety of options they could all come to an agreement. For extra promotion I've also created several dynamic web-banners used on japantravel.com and other websites.

JapanTravel Bike banners
JapanTravel Bike design overview

The results

Although we're still not able to detect what bikes are available at what bike port, the service renewal has been a great success. Thousands of bike passes have been purchased and we were able to meet our goals by getting rid off most major pain points. Users are now able to unlock bikes in seconds or prebook one in advance and happily ride around the city while escaping the infamous Tokyo rush hour trains.

“We loved Japan Travel Bike – just find a bike and you're good to go. I never anticipated seeing such a different side of Tokyo – it certainly beats the busy trains!”
JapanTravel Bike User