Capturing Biking in Boston with Cartoon Drawings, 1978 to Present

I learned the value of artistic expression at a pretty early age; one time my parents wouldn’t let me eat Oreo cookies before going to bed, so I grabbed my handy box of crayons and in a fit of six-year-old rage, unleashed my finest crayon masterpiece to date all over the walls of my closet. For years to come, these crayon masterpieces on my closet walls would always serve to remind me that even if I can’t always have Oreos before bed, I can always express how I feel using writing utensils (and learn how thrilled my parents were about cleaning up my mess). The greatest thing about biking in this great city of Boston is that everyone’s has a unique biking experience, and sometimes, the best way to capture these sometimes ridiculous experiences is by drawing them with digital crayons.

An artist/blogger calling herself “Bikeyface” has taken Boston’s biking community by storm this year with her awesome and hilarious illustrations of her thoughts and experiences biking in Boston, like her illustrations of potholes she experiences on Mass. Ave,

A more practical way to mount bike reflectors,

Winter Perks

and how safer drivers would behave around bikers if only we’d all mount puppies to our handlebars:

Even though bikeyface has only been biking in Boston for a little over a year, she’s no doubt captured the feel for biking in Boston that many of us identify with, and even has some great ideas to share. But she’s not the only bicyclist in Boston who has whipped out digital crayons to express their experiences on biking in Boston.
In fact, a thread started a few years ago on bikeforums.net, titled “MS Paint Your Mishaps” encourages riders all over the world of all drawing abilities to share their biking mishaps using MS paint, many of which ended up including the infamous rage face at the end.

I loved this idea of drawing bike mishaps so much I started a Boston version of this thread over on Bostonfixed.us discussion forum to invite members of Boston’s fixed-gear community to share their own mishaps (some users have posted mishaps that are NSFW, you’ve been warned), and soon members of Boston’s fixed gear community came up with their own wonderful cartoon drawings of biking mishaps. Bikeyface captures the potholes on Mass Ave. accurately, but as bostonfixed user Reid and Carol points out, there is more to look out for on Mass. Ave. than Texas-sized potholes:

Or, as I discovered when I first started biking around Boston everywhere a few years ago, there is even more to look out for while biking than potholes and doors:

At MIT:

At BU:

and on the Minuteman Trail

Two summers ago I had the pleasure of living with a family in JP who had been living and biking in Boston for over 30 years (as well as the pleasure of moving my belongings from JP to Somerville by bike). From traveling and biking all over the world, various members of this family had gathered quite an impressive collection of maps from all over the world, but what caught my eye was sitting on their bookshelf apart from the rest of their maps, this Bike Map of Boston from the year 1978:

Opening it up reveals a map familiar to anyone who’s ever seen the Rubel Bike Map of Boston (which this map would later become). But what’s this? An “Illustrated Guide” to Commuting in Boston? And flipping the map to its reverse side did not reveal a slew of advertisements like the City of Boston’s new 2009/2010 Bike Map, but a series of cartoon drawings featuring the adventure of Alice B. Toeclips and her bike-commuting journey through Boston.

Illustrated examples of bicyclists signaling in traffic and yelling “on your left!” on Memorial Drive? Check. Bike-safety superhero named Sprocketman? Check. Human-powered “Gossimer Condor” aircrafts flying over Commonwealth Ave? Yep, Boston’s got those. There is much more to this cartoon than in the image above, but you deserve better than sub-par camera scans, so I’ll be scanning the rest of it soon with an actual scanner and sharing it here.

You may have many questions like I did when I first saw this map, like, “How was there a Boston Bike map in 1978 when the city’s very first bike lane didn’t appear until 2008?” and “who is Alice B. Toeclips?”

Well, as it turns out, biking and Boston have had a long history even before it’s very first bike lane in 2008 (even dating back to the 19th century). So dear readers, stay tuned for an upcoming post with answers to these questions and more, including complete digital scans of this map and included cartoon illustrated guide to biking in Boston circa 1978.

This entry was posted in Advocacy, Bike History, Illustrations. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <div align="" class="" dir="" id="" lang="" style="" xml:lang=""> <embed style="" type="" id="" height="" width="" src="" object=""> <iframe width="" height="" frameborder="" scrolling="" marginheight="" marginwidth="" src=""> <img alt="" align="" border="" class="" height="" hspace="" longdesc="" vspace="" src="" style="" width="" title="" usemap=""> <map name="" area="" id=""> <object style="" height="" width="" param="" embed=""> <param name="" value=""> <pre style="" name="" class="" lang="" width="">