Who is BikeyFace?
"Bikeyface is a hilarious, sometimes irreverent, and fun take on urban biking," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "I want to raise the profile of biking for transportation in Boston (and other cities). There’s been some negativity in the media about biking, and Bikeyface was initially started in response to that. I want to offer a different perspective. There’s something about an image that can just cut to the heart of an issue or illustrate an idea. I do everything from my own perspective because that’s what I know. I’m not a transportation expert or bicycle advocate; I’m just another person on the street trying to get to work. And even though the roads can be tricky sometimes, I still bike and love my commute. It’s practical, lowers stress, and gets me outdoors. Beyond the bike stereotypes and politics, it’s really just an enjoyable lifestyle. That’s what I hope comes across."
"It’s not too hard to start biking, but there is a learning curve," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "It’s similar to learning to drive or take transit in a new city. Of course you’re not in a new city; you’re just using a new form of transportation. But the city will feel foreign for a bit. You’ll have to take extra time to plan your route and how to ride it. (Google Maps gives pretty good biking directions.) Also, it will take time to build up muscle, but your legs actually adapt pretty quickly. If you’re biking to work, I suggest doing a trial ride on a weekend to learn your route. Start small — bike one or two days. Take days off in between to rest. Increase that as you get more comfortable and your legs adjust to the new activity. At a certain point as your experience grows, you can start getting more adventurous and exploring the city. This can be really daunting. But it’s also thrilling when you suddenly find you’re able to get across the city to see those friends you never visited because they were an hour subway ride away. And by bike it was only 30 minutes."
The Right Spokes
"In my own experience, the first bike you buy is always the wrong one," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "You can do research and get tons of advice, but ultimately you won’t know exactly what bike is for you until you ride a bit and figure out your style. So I recommend an inexpensive bike that works and fits well. Or try out Hubway; their bikes are ideal entry-level bikes. If you plan to bike to work, run errands, carry groceries, and bike to social events, you’ll probably want some sort of versatile commuter bike. Something like a hybrid, mixte, step-through, or loop-frame bike is a good choice. They’ll allow you to wear just about any clothing and are easy to get on/off because they have lowered top tubes. They’re also more upright than road bikes, which I prefer on city streets. It’s easier to make eye contact with drivers and keep your balance when signaling or looking over your shoulder. But you can also get a sporty bike and adapt it for commuting (e.g., changing handlebars, adding accessories, changing gearing). But mostly I suggest starting with something basic that you can afford. Then if you fall in love with biking, you can have fun picking out your second bike and making it exactly what you want."
"I frequent several bike stores depending on what I need, but my new favorite is Hub Bicycle in Cambridge," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "It’s the only woman-owned/operated bike shop that I know of. Most bike shops are geared toward middle-aged men commuter or road cyclists and full of male employees. They’re perfectly nice, but there’s an imbalance and they don’t always do a good job of getting outside that demographic. There’s a whole part of the market that is not understood or being well served. So I make a point to support businesses that do. (I should point out that I don’t have any sort of promotional arrangement with Hub Bicycle; I just like them.)"
"The number-one thing you need for your bike? LIGHTS! Don’t be a bike ninja," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "You want drivers to be able to see you at night. Lights are the most important safety gear. Always keep them in your bag and charged. I prefer USB rechargeable LED lights because I can recharge them at work. After that, fenders and a chain guard/case to keep your clothes clean and dry, a very good U-lock so you still have a ride home at the end of the day, and a rear rack or basket for carrying things. For clothes, I just wear what’s already in my closet. That’s my ‘cycling apparel.’"
"Cyclists must follow the rules of the road! This is very important," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "The streets don’t always accommodate cyclists very well, but a bike is considered a vehicle like a car and has a right to the road. And like a car, bikes are subject to the same rules of the road (with a few exceptions). But there’s more to it than just following the law — there’s safety! You need to be predictable. Drivers have to anticipate other road users’ behavior and often have to make quick decisions. If you operate by your own rules, it’s very easy to be on the wrong side of a misunderstanding. If you’ve ever driven (or biked) in Boston, you know it’s really stressful with everything going every which way and not making any sense. By following the rules, you’ll be safer and get more respect. You have a lot more control of your own safety than you might think. Be polite, predictable, and communicate your intentions (signal!). Also, you won’t actually get to your destination faster by running red lights. It’s really not worth it. So stop, catch your breath, people watch, dance to the loud music coming from the car nearby, adjust your bra/shorts, whatever."
For more information about the rules of the road and more tips, visit MassBike’s Same Road Same Rules (http://sameroadssamerules.org/) or the Boston Cyclists Union website (http://bostoncyclistsunion.org/).
"Bike season is just getting started, and events are just being announced," says cartoonist Bekka Wright. "May is National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week is May 14-18, so there will be a lot going on then. You can find out about events at the websites below. Another place to find out what’s happening is at Boston Biker (http://bostonbiker.org/). I’m also going to be hosting a couple of my own events through Bikeyface. There will be more information on the site in the next few weeks."
· MassBike (http://massbike.org/)
· Boston Cyclists Union (http://bostoncyclistsunion.org/)
· LivableStreets (http://www.livablestreets.info/)
· Bikes Not Bombs (http://bikesnotbombs.org/)
Two Wheel Wonder
Look! On the road! It's a wheel! It's a head! It's Bikeyface! As in a bike with a face? Nah. As in a girl with a helmet, a set of road rules, and one serious 'tude. Bikeyface is the self-deprecating star of Bekka Wright's comic strip -- a modern-day superhero who flies around town on two rubber wheels.
And -- holy steel spoke! -- you need to be on guard if you're battling the streets every day on a bike. It's a war, man, where cars are the enemy, bike lanes the allies, and traffic lights the commanders. It's not that car drivers are evil, really; it's just that they forget about the two-wheeling folks like Bikeyface, just out for an insurance-free ride. Bekka Wright created the cartoon after discovering the joys of a cycling commute when she lived out in Los Angeles. With its five-lane highways, speeding Porsches, and urban sprawl, LA was pretty much the worst place you could kick-start such a journey. But Bekka, who had earned her master's in filmmaking at the University of Southern California, needed to find a way to work out, commute to work and get around La-La Land. The first day, she could barely pedal a mile. But after a couple of months, she was putting in 10 miles a day without a huff or a puff.
But Bekka has always been up for a good challenge. As a 12-year-old, she moved with her family to Jerusalem. Suddenly, her commute to school was peppered with soldiers holding machine guns, and the nightly news regularly headlined local bombings. In the family's rented apartment, Bekka found a book filled with political cartoons, which she read cover to cover. Always an artist, Bekka was mesmerized by the idea of connecting art with social commentary. When the family moved back to Vermont, Bekka illustrated “Little Red Riding Hood.” The wolf was a terrorist.
A few years ago, Bekka packed up her bike and moved to Boston. Disenchanted with the movie biz, she accepted a job at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design as the internship director. Naturally, she bikes to work. And each night, when she returns home, she picks up her sketchpad and recounts her adventures on the road through Bikeyface, her thoughtful, funny, and sometimes clumsy protagonist. There are impromptu kisses at a red light, rude old biddies driving in the wrong lane, and even highlights of biker fashion. The blog fetches some 30,000 hits a month. There's talk of a tee-shirt line and special BikeyFace events, all celebrating a regular girl and her bike. Just call it the simpler side of a superhero.