British Columbia

Strava app used while cycling to create 'GPS art'

'I liken it to seeing shapes in the clouds,' said Stephen Lund, who plans out routes around the city to create images using GPS.

Stephen Lund plans out routes on a map to create images of mermaids, witches and animals

When Victoria, B.C., resident Stephen Lund began tracking his cycling workouts using Strava, an app that maps out a person's rides or runs using GPS, he saw the potential to be creative with the red route lines that showed up on the map.

So on Jan. 1, 2015, he cycled a route around the city so the map of his workout showed "Happy 2015."

Now Lund has made about 70 of these maps — elaborate images such as a giraffe, the Easter Bunny, a witch's face, and many more — which he posts to his website

The very first 'GPS doodle' that Stephen Lund created. (Stephen Lund/

"The best ones pop off the map. I liken it to seeing shapes in the clouds," Lund told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"I pour over a map of the city, and when I see a general shape I start to look for roads and routes that complete the details. The challenge is that the roads all have to connect — it has to be one continuous line.

Lund says he starts by spending many hours working out a picture with a map, then writing our turn-by-turn directions to follow as a ride.

"Then I ride out to the starting point, start my GPS, and away I go," he said. 

The maps have garnered Lund attention from around the world.

A map he created that showed #OlympicDay won a competition from the International Olympic Committee, a prize that includes a trip to Rio de Janeiro to preview Olympic venues.

Also, he'll talking about his unique hobby at a TEDx event in Victoria on Nov. 21.

70 kms per image

Lund, who usually does the rides in the morning to avoid traffic, said he averages about 70 kilometres for each doodle. He estimates he has ridden about 5,000 kilometres since he started in January.

He said the longest doodle was one he calls "the mermaid of the Salish Sea."

"She was 220 kilometres of biking, over two days, and I went through three bikes to get her done because I had mechanical issues on two of them," he said.

"I came home and my wife said after the second one, 'Isn't this the universe telling you to come back to bed?' And I said, 'No, it's the universe testing my commitment to GPS art."

Lund encourages everyone to give his art form a try.

"It doesn't have to be a 70-kilometre ride. As soon as you've gotten on your bike and you've ridden around the block you've started a GPS doodle," he said.

"It's just a really good reason to get out on your bike and see the city."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver Island cyclist uses GPS to create art


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