How a San Francisco cyclist went viral for Iran protest art

In late September, Jakub Mosur woke up at 7 am to his phone ringing off the hook.

“It’s so strange,” Mosur, 46, recalled thinking at the time. “It just keeps buzzing. I kind of buzz, buzz, buzz, and I look, and I get tons and tons of notifications on instagram.”

Mosur quickly realized that his post of GPS art honoring the life of Mahsa Amini had gone viral.

Amini was an Iranian woman detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly failing to properly wear a hijab, a headdress that all women are required to wear in public. A few days after her arrest, police reported that she had died of a heart attack in prison, but it is widely believed that she died in custody.

A screenshot of Mahsa Amini's memorial GPS artwork that went viral after Jakub Mosur posted it on his Instagram.

A screenshot of Mahsa Amini’s memorial GPS artwork that went viral after Jakub Mosur posted it on his Instagram.

Courtsey Jakub Mosur

His death has led to several weeks of bloody protests throughout Iran against the country’s restrictions on personal freedom.

Since shortly after the start of the pandemic, Mosur has gone through San Francisco by bike, creating GPS illustrations based on your routes. Some of his pieces are intricately designed and many have a political message. That was the case with his piece in honor of Amini.

“I’m not just drawing with GPS and trying to spread a message, but I’m trying to change the world in a positive way through the only medium I feel I have in my power,” he explained.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur rides his bike on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur rides his bike on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

getting back on the bike

Bicycling had been a big part of Mosur’s life even as a boy in Poland, touring the city and the countryside with his father. After immigrating to the United States and settling near San Diego, Mosur rode while in high school, until his bike was stolen. He hadn’t touched a bike in a few decades until 2018, when he bought an $80 bike on Craigslist. He later upgraded to a hybrid bike to take longer rides with other parents at his son’s school in the Richmond district. They often rode $10,000 bikes, but Mosur was still able to keep up.

In February 2020, Mosur met up with a friend who lent him a fixed-gear bike to ride and was instantly hooked.

“On a fixed-gear bike, your feet are firmly connected to the pedals. It’s a constant motion,” Mosur explained. “It doesn’t feel like you’re riding a bike. It feels like the bike is riding you, or it almost feels like you’re on a horse, and you’re just trying to control the direction it’s going.” “

Mosur bought a friend’s extra bike and named it the Marengo, after Napoleon’s horse, and began riding it every chance he got. As the distances he cycled increased, he noticed that the lines he drew on his GPS tracking map during his rides were like works of art.

“I started to see that there’s more to it than just exercising and cycling. I felt like the map was coming back to me,” Mosur said. “Just like the bike was responding to me, speaking to me, as if there were hidden images on the map.”

GPS artist Jakub Mosur rests while riding his fixed gear bike on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.
GPS artist Jakub Mosur rests while riding his fixed gear bike on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE
GPS artist Jakub Mosur displays a photo he took on his first fixie ride with a friend in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.
GPS artist Jakub Mosur displays a photo he took on his first fixie ride with a friend in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Jakub Mosur displays his riding stats on the Strava iPhone app. Credit: Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

A pandemic hobby becomes something else

Along with his wife Erin, Mosur had built a successful freelance photography business over the past two decades. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve built this company for more than 20 years, and it’s upside down,” Mosur said. “It was extremely depressing. I was anxious all the time.” His anxiety brought back painful memories of how his family had to flee his native Poland when he was a child as a refugee. Needing a creative outlet, Mosur was inspired by Lenny Maughan and Frank Chen, who turned their city tours into something similar. gps art.

“I was doing it because I needed a creative outlet,” Mosur explained.



A GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur

A GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

A 100-mile spiral GPS Illustrations by Jakoub Mosur

A 100-mile spiral GPS Illustrations by Jakoub Mosur


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

A great great horned owl GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur.

A great great horned owl GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur.


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

A GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur

A GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur


Courtesy Jakub Mosur


Some of the artwork by GPS artist Jakub Mosur. (Courtesy Jakub Mosur)

In July 2020, he made his first GPS artwork of the Eye of Ra, an ancient Egyptian symbol of health. At the same time, her family received a health scare when her eldest daughter, Zosha, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

“It’s part of the whole process of making art. I didn’t have that outlet, and it felt very frustrating, and with Zhosa’s new situation that we were dealing with, it was very difficult for me to deal with all these things,” Mosur. he said. “It was like a way to go out and relax and be in a happy place.”

After completing his first piece, the scope and size expanded, and he began to incorporate political messages. One of her first political works was a fist on a city map in support of the Black Lives Matter protests. Just before the 2020 and 2022 elections, Mosur also posted his GPS artwork on his Instagram with the word “vote.”

Some messages were to raise awareness about diabetes and others were to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or to free Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Mosur also began creating GPS artwork to raise funds for the JDRF, primarily to ensure access to insulin for all.

His Instagram posts would receive a few hundred likes from his followers, mostly friends. However, all of that changed overnight after she shared the artwork of hers in memory of Mahsa Amini.

Jakub Mosur took this selfie while doing his first GPS job at the Eye of Ra.

Jakub Mosur took this selfie while doing his first GPS job at the Eye of Ra.

Courtesy Jakub Mosur

GPS art goes viral

After Amini’s death on September 16, Mosur began seeing posts about her and the subsequent protests on TikTok. He decided to create a piece in memory of Amini to raise awareness.

After laying out the layout, he cycled the route on a Sunday afternoon. He felt something was missing and decided to include a heart at the end of his journey. Her Instagram post received the usual 50 to 60 likes. Four days later, Mosur woke up to her phone buzzing non-stop.

Jakub Mosur's GPS artwork in memory of Mahsa Amini that went viral.

Jakub Mosur’s GPS artwork in memory of Mahsa Amini that went viral.

Courtesy Jakub Mosur

“I looked at the photo of Mahsa Amini, and it has 20,000 likes,” she said, explaining that she believes a share by a San Francisco influencer is what boosted her popularity.

The Instagram post now has more than 120,000 likes and more than 33,000 comments. He had received so many direct messages from people all over the world that he had not been able to reply to all of them.

“What really moved me was hearing people talk about how they can’t easily go online. And they only went on for five minutes and they could see this,” he said. “And they felt very grateful, very grateful that someone is aware of what is happening.”

At first, Mosur was excited as his message was amplified and spread around the world. “And then at the same time, I felt the weight of the world coming down on me like, ‘Oh my gosh, the whole world is watching this.’ I have such an insane responsibility to try to continue to spread this message. And I feel involved in the outcome of what will happen there.”

His connection to the struggle of the people of Iran was formed when his family had to flee communist Poland after his father joined the anti-authoritarian Solidarity movement. In particular, Mosur hopes that the protests can lead to greater personal freedom for all Iranians, especially women whose lives are controlled by regressive rules.

GPS artwork by Jakub Mosur in support of the BLM movement.

GPS artwork by Jakub Mosur in support of the BLM movement.


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

In commemoration of National Diabetes Month, GPS artist Jakub Mosur created this piece.

In commemoration of National Diabetes Month, GPS artist Jakub Mosur created this piece.


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

GPS artwork “Abortion is healthcare” by Jakub Mosur.


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

GPS artwork by Jakub Mosur encouraging people to vote.

GPS artwork by Jakub Mosur encouraging people to vote.


Courtesy Jakub Mosur


Some of GPS artist Jakub Mosur’s political artwork. (Courtesy Jakub Mosur)

continuing the protest

Since her first post, she has continued to draw art pieces to raise awareness of the protests in Iran. In one post, she drew the Farsi word “azadi,” which means freedom, a message to Sharif University students who helped lead the protests and other Iranians who have been imprisoned by the country’s authorities.

Mosur also participated in an in-person protest in San Francisco against the Iranian government, and his political work even led to an interview with BBC Persia.

“I did journalism in the past. I probably reached more eyes through this than any story that’s ever been published,” he said.

Jakub Mosur was interviewed by BBC Persian about his GPS art in support of the protests in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Jakub Mosur was interviewed by BBC Persian about his GPS art in support of the protests in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Courtesy Jakub Mosur

Mosur has no plans to stop raising awareness about the Iran protests. He feels that they have not been adequately covered by the media and hopes that the country’s government will change in the near future.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur poses with his fixed gear bike on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur poses with his fixed gear bike on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California on October 25, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

“I want to continue to push the narratives of more human freedoms, equality for all genders, equality for all sexual identities, and equality for all minorities,” she added.



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