Bekka Wright is the author and illustrator behind the bike illustration blog Bikeyface. I interviewed her a while ago about her story, what made her ditch the car and what it’s like to ride a bike in LA and Boston. But first, some of my favorite illustrations by Bekka Wright that summarize what many of us probably love about cycling.
You have a good time in the beginning and the end of a working day.
There are many kind of cyclists (actually, there are no such thing as a “cyclist”, its just about a person on a bike -and you chose how and why you want to ride.)
“The best part of commuting by bike is that I don’t have to spend part of the day here” - Bekka
You get happy legs.
It’s easier than many people think!
“It’s only 4.1 miles to work and I can’t go terribly fast due to traffic, potholes, stop lights, and avoiding devil buses. I don’t really sweat (except for August or “wet-wipe-season.”) Turning it into a true shower-requiring-workout would be extra nonsense.”
(It’s good that companies offers showers, but I like this one as 80% of all trips made in Stockholm are less than 5 km and if those people chose to bike they wouldn’t have to make cycling into a shower activity -unless they really want to.)
Where are you from?
- I have moved around a bit, I’ve lived in California, Utah, Vermont, Massachusetts, and even lived a year in Jerusalem. But most of my time has been spent in Los Angeles and the Boston area. So those those cities feel the most like home.
How come you’re hooked on cycling? You used to take the car is that true? How come you changed over?
- I always loved cycling and used to bike a lot as a kid when I lived in mostly suburban towns and rural areas. I stopped biking once I moved to Los Angeles because it was so different from what I knew. I didn’t think I could bike there except for leisure on a few bike paths. A car was essential because I was working in film and TV production and driving was part of my job.There were days I would drive over 100 miles running errands. But I got burned out after a bit and changed careers to advertising illustration and moved to the Silverlake part of Los Angeles. There were bike lanes on the street and more of a neighborhood feel. I was getting involved with the indie rock scene and there was a musician I knew of that advocated biking. During the same time I happened to visit Vienna and saw cycle chic there. I fell in love with it. That was the first time I started wondering about biking in Los Angeles.
I love where this story is heading.
- Haha, the ultimately it was a practical reason that made me stop wondering about it and do it. The downside of my neighborhood is that it wasn’t close to a gym. With traffic, parking time, and waiting for a free machine my gym routine took nearly three hours out of my day. It wasn’t something I could maintain. I started thinking about how to incorporate activity into my daily life. Biking made the most sense. I bought a black Electra Amsterdam and started biking to work. I started with biking 1 or 2 days a week and soon was biking every day, plus running errands, meeting friends. I discovered the magic of biking to Hollywood to go to see live music, clubs, movies, or dinner and being able to park right out front while my friends circled for 45 minutes to find $15-20 parking. I enjoyed the biking lifestyle and I became obsessed.
Awesome, I had exactly the same sudden experience of freedom when I brought my bike to Stockholm. Life turned easy as. How is Boston vs LA for cycling?
- It’s hard to be objective since both my experience level and personal tastes have changed so much. In LA the streets are laid out like a grid and are wider, so even without bike lanes it was sometimes easier to avoid using high-traffic streets like Sunset Boulevard. I would take a residential street that ran parallel to busy ones. However car culture is very entrenched there. Nobody really walks, bikes, or takes taxis. The streets are built more for cars who don’t have many obstacles there (except other cars.)
That must be a challenge sometimes.
- They’re not used to sharing the road at all. I once had a car pull alongside me on a very quiet isolated residential road and yell emphatically ?YOU ARE NOT A CAR!? even though there was plenty of room for them to pass me. They wanted to make sure I knew that I wasn’t welcome there.
This must give a lot of inspiration to your illustrations. So, how’s Boston then?
- In Boston the layout of the roads is horrible and often there is only one direct route to get where you’re going. But since there is a diverse mix of transportation types it seems cars are a little more used to chaos. When I moved to Boston I also switched from Dutch-style bike to a Hybrid bike that has more aggressive but still upright posture. It allowed me to maneuver better in traffic. While Boston still has a long way to go, the city seems overall more bike-friendly. It seems to be changing quickly. I love it here.
Do you think the cycling is increasing in Boston?
- I haven’t lived here for that long, so I don’t have a complete understanding of everything. But I last lived here in 1999 and comparing it to then- it’s entirely different. Once I had an internship working on TV commercials and the producer sent me on an errand with his bicycle because it was a rush and biking was faster than taking the company van. It was a little bit scary. There are bike lanes in that area now. And it’s only going to get better.
Tell me about your blog!
- I started a bike blog in June 2011. It wasn’t meant to be a cartoon blog at first but more of a personal blog about my 2-wheeled adventures. I had just moved into the city for the first time, sold my car, and was learning my way around the city. But I’ve always drawn pictures and it just evolved into a cartoon blog. In the autumn of 2011 i rebranded the blog to Bikeyface.
What is your drive behind the blog?
- I want Bikeyface to be as fun and enjoyable and the bike lifestyle. Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated about how much needs to change on our city streets. But ultimately there is a reason people bike in spite of it all. That spirit is what I want to capture. Many of my posts are fun and focused on lifestyle, but it’s also important to me that Bikeyface advocates safety, road rules, and raise awareness of important issues.
How come you’re so good in drawing bicycles?
- I don’t know that I’m that good. I have to look at photos most of the time and copy them. It’s always a struggle to make them not look too mangled.
Well let me tell you, your drawings are great. What is your best advices for a nice ride to work?
- Arrange your route so you pass as many bakeries as possible. They smell good in the morning, and if you?re not late you can stop and buy something. I’m always late though.
Thank you for your time and keep up the good work!
All illustrations by: Bekka Wright . Get hooked on the blog Bikeyface here.