How a San Francisco cyclist went viral for Iran protest art

In late September, Jakub Mosur woke up at 7 am to find his phone buzzing nonstop.

“It’s so weird,” Mosur, 46, remembered thinking at the time. “It just keeps buzzing. Like buzzing, buzzing, buzzing, and I look, and I have tons and tons of notifications on Instagram.”

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

Amini was an Iranian woman detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly not properly wearing a hijab, a headdress that all women are required to wear in public. A few days after her detention of her, the police reported that she had died of a heart attack in prison, but it is widely believed that she was killed in custody.

A screengrab of the GPS artwork in memory of Mahsa Amini that went viral after Jakub Mosur posted it on his Instagram.

A screengrab of the GPS artwork in memory of Mahsa Amini that went viral after Jakub Mosur posted it on his Instagram.

Courtsey Jakub Mosur

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

Since shortly after the start of the pandemic, Mosur has traversed San Francisco by bike, creating GPS artwork based on his routes. Some of his pieces are intricate designs, and many have a political message. That was the case with his piece by him honoring 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 means I feel I have under my power,” he explained.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur rides his bicycle on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2022.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur rides his bicycle on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Getting back on the bike

Biking had been a big part of Mosur’s life even when he was a young kid in Poland, riding through the city and countryside with his father. After emigrating 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 bicycle off Craigslist. He then upgraded to a hybrid bike to go on longer rides with other parents from his kid’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 loaned him a fixed-gear bicycle to ride with, and he was instantly hooked.

“On a fixed-gear bike, your feet are firmly connected to the pedals. It’s a constant movement,” Mosur explained. “It doesn’t feel like you’re riding the 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 that it’s heading in. “

Mosur bought a friend’s extra bicycle and named it Marengo, after Napoleon’s horse, and started riding every chance he had. As the distances he bicycled grew, he noticed that the lines his GPS tracking map he drew during his rides were like artwork.

“I started seeing that there’s something more to just exercising and riding on the bike. I felt like the map was popping back to me,” Mosur noted. “Just like the bike was talking back to me, speaking to me, like there’s hidden images on the map itself.”

GPS Artist Jakub Mosur rests while riding his fixed-gear bicycle on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Calif.  on Oct. 25, 2022.
GPS Artist Jakub Mosur rests while riding his fixed-gear bicycle on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 25, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

GPS Artist Jakub Mosur shows a photo he took on his first fixie ride with a friend in San Francisco, Calif.  on Oct. 25, 2022.
GPS Artist Jakub Mosur shows a photo he took on his first fixie ride with a friend in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 25, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

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

A pandemic hobby turns into something more

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

“We’ve built this company for over 20 years, and it’s flat on its back,” Mosur said. “It was extremely depressing. I was just anxious all the time.” The anxiety brought back painful memories of his family’s having to flee his native Poland when he was a child as a refugee. In need of a creative outlet, Mosur found inspiration from Lenny Maughan and Frank Chen, who turned their runs through the city into 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 Artwork by Jakoub Mosur

A 100 mile spiral GPS Artwork by Jakoub Mosur


Courtesy Jakub Mosur

A great horned owl GPS artwork by Jakoub Mosur.

A 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 GPS artist Jakub Mosur’s artwork. (Courtesy Jakub Mosur)

In July 2020, he made his first GPS art piece of the Eye of Ra, an ancient Egyptian symbol of health. At the same time, his family received a health scare when his oldest 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 so frustrating, and with Zhosa’s new situation that we were dealing with, it just felt so hard to deal with all these things,” Mosur he said. “It was like a way for me to go out there and relax and be in a happy place.”

After he completed his first piece, the scope and size expanded, and he started to incorporate political messages. One of his first political works was a fist over the map of the city 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 the COVID-19 vaccine or to free Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Mosur also started creating GPS art pieces as a fundraiser for the JDRF, primarily to ensure insulin access to everyone.

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

Jakub Mosur took this selfie while making his first GPS at work of the Eye of Ra.

Jakub Mosur took this selfie while making his first GPS at work of the Eye of Ra.

Courtesy Jakub Mosur

GPS art goes viral

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

After tracing out the design, he biked the route on a Sunday afternoon. He felt something was missing and decided to include a heart at the end of his ride. His Instagram post received the usual 50 to 60 likes. Four days later, Mosur woke up to his phone buzzing nonstop.

The GPS artwork by Jakub Mosur in memory of Mahsa Amini that went viral.

The GPS artwork by Jakub Mosur in memory of Mahsa Amini that went viral.

Courtesy Jakub Mosur

“I looked at the Mahsa Amini picture, and there are 20,000 likes on it,” he said, explaining that he thinks a share from a San Francisco influencer is what propelled its popularity.

The Instagram post now has over 120,000 likes and over 33,000 comments. He had received so many direct messages from people all around the world that he hadn’t been able to respond to all of them.

“The ones that really touched me was hearing people talk about how they can’t get online easily. And they just got on for like five minutes, and they were able to see this,” he said. “And they felt so grateful, so thankful that somebody is aware of what’s happening.”

At first, Mosur was exhilarated because his message was amplified and spread worldwide. “And then at the very same time, I felt like the weight of the world is coming down on me like, ‘Oh, my God, everybody is seeing this.’ I have such a crazy responsibility to try to continue spreading this message. And I feel invested in the outcome of what’s going to happen there.”

His connection with the struggle of the people of Iran was shaped by his family’s having to escape communist Poland after his father was part of the Solidarity anti-authoritarian movement. In particular, Mosur hopes that the protests can lead to greater personal freedom for all Iranians, especially the 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 observance of National Diabetes Month, GPS artist Jakub Mosur created this piece.

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


Courtesy Jakub Mosur


“Abortion is Healthcare” GPS artwork 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 his first post, he has continued to draw art pieces to bring awareness to the protests in Iran. In one post, he drew the Farsi word “azadi,” which means freedom, a message for Sharif University students who helped lead the protests and other Iranians who have been jailed 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’ve done journalism in the past. I probably reached more eyeballs through this than any story that ever was published,” he noted.

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 bringing awareness to the Iran protests. He feels they have not been adequately covered in the media and hopes the country’s government will change in the near future.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur poses with his fixed-gear bicycle on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2022.

GPS artist Jakub Mosur poses with his fixed-gear bicycle on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

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



Leave a Comment

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