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Cyclist turns bike routes into art with Strava GPS app

On Jan. 1 last year, Canadian cycling enthusiast Stephen Lund had a novel idea: He wanted to ride the streets of his hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, in the shape of a seasonal greeting to ring in the new year.

Using the Strava GPS tracking app, he attempted to spell out “Happy 2015!” on his trip, using Strava’s tracking to trace the message before uploading the results online.

That initial idea would be the inspiration behind a new movement that led to Lund transforming his daily commute and turning his passion for biking into an artistic vehicle as he continued to experiment with new creative bike routes, starting the website GPSDoodles.com to show off his creations.

Strava GPS doodles
Lund’s first doodle, which started him on the path towards creating GPSdoodles.com. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Lund
“A lot of it was based on encouragement and requests from my cycling club,” Lund told the Sydney Morning Herald. “They started out pretty small scale — I tried out a little ‘Where’s Waldo’ — but the bigger they got the more the creative potential.”

While the idea of tracing his routes was whimsical at first, Lund found that the GPS doodles gave him new motivation to get on his bike and pushed him to cycle more than he normally would.

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“It was a lot of fun on the one hand,” he told the Herald. “But it also injected a sense of purpose into my bike rides.”

That sense of purpose manifested itself in more elaborate drawings. While he initially started off with simple messages like “Happy 2015,” Lund wanted to satisfy his website’s readers.

Strava GPS doodles
Lund describes his mermaid doodle as his most elaborate to date. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Lund

“The best [doodles] pop off the map,” Lund told Bored Panda of his creative process. “I liken it to seeing shapes in the clouds. I pour [sic] over a map of the city … The challenge is that the roads all have to connect — it has to be one continuous line.”

All of that doodling led Lund to cycle nearly 14,000 miles over 2015, creating extremely ornate doodles like the one he titled “The Siren of the Salish Sea” — a depiction of a mermaid that took more than 11 hours and 220 miles of cycling to accomplish. While initially nervous to upload the piece, Lund was thrilled with the response when he posted it.

Strava GPS doodles
Lund wants to keep his doodles lighthearted and fun to encourage others to try it out. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Lund

“Once people get it — that sometimes I’ve travelled hundreds of kilometres to create this, I get a lot of incredulous reactions,” Lund told the Morning Herald. “But people are often amazed.”

Still, in the end, Lund insists he doesn’t have super lofty ambitions for his creations, but that he simply wants others to maybe get on their bikes and give it a try.

“I purposely called them ‘doodles’ because I want to encourage other people to do it,” he says. “‘Art’ can be a little lofty and exclusive.”

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