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The Cyclist Who Drew Toronto


James Redekop loves to cycle. Between 2004 and 2009, he estimates that he’s cycled for six hundred and fifty hours and covered more than eight thousand kilometres. Using the GPS data from these rides, Redekop created the Etch A Sketch–style animation above (the red lines represent five minutes of his cycling and the red arrows indicate rides outside of Toronto). But turning his riding into a cool animation wasn’t always his intention.
“Getting serious about cycling goes back about five years,” Redekop told Torontoist. “A few years before that I injured my back and I started having trouble riding my regular bike…About five years ago, I got a recumbent bike, a Rans V-Rex, and found that I could ride it for hours and hours without any problems.” At the same time, Redekop also decided to track his rides in a GPS log, and then, earlier this year, he imported his GPS files into Google Earth to see what his riding patterns looked like on a map. “Because I commute back and forth on the bike, most of the downtown had lines all over it,” explained Redekop. “It was fairly clumsy looking because the lines were fairly wide and there were dozens of them over top of each other, and they sort of blotted out all of downtown. So I dialed back the lines using the settings in Google Earth, and when I did that it sort of took on the feeling of an ink drawing…That struck me as interesting, but with the aerial photos in the background it still looked busy, so I used Google Earth to put a big black square right underneath the lines to see what the lines looked like by themselves.”
Redekop’s next step was to develop a program that could read the GPS data and draw the paths on a blank canvas. “Naturally I was working on something to generate the drawings and it occurred to me that this would be kind of interesting to see it animated…When I started cycling five years ago it wasn’t meant as a project to eventually get to this. When I started doing it it didn’t occur to me at first to put it on YouTube; I just wanted to see what it would look like.” Now that he’s got the software, Redekop says that he intends to make new animations using data from rides outside of Toronto.
You can check out more of Redekop’s pictures and animations on his blog, ’77 Track 7.

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