HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – One artist was looking for a way to get more active. Fast forward from June 2019, and he’s ridden more than 2,000 miles on his bike and counting, cycling through the streets of Huntsville to reach that number.
“Huntsville is 220 square miles, or 25 miles from my house to the city limits in any direction basically.” David Nuttall knows this because he has biked every single street within Huntsville’s city limits.
“Every street in Huntsville to me is every public accessible right of way. So roads, streets, avenues, all types,” he said. “It was, what I’d consider, an accidental quest.”
He started biking regularly in an effort to get more active after watching his brother run a marathon in England.
As a professional cartographer and artist, he wanted to map his rides as he biked them, but when he looked at the product, he noticed he was only riding through areas he already knew.
“It was kind of, ‘I should do all of it.’ The brain pattern I have to make a pretty map didn’t like the distinct lack of colored-in roads,” Nuttall said.
So the journey began. He said one thing that surprised him was the miniature dead-end roads he called ‘red diamonds,’ because of their distinctive markers.
“They’re not intentional dead ends, they’re unfinished streets, and there are 512 of those,” he said.
The red diamonds were one of the only things he documented while he explored the city because he could not believe how many he saw, some just a few yards apart.
Nuttall has been doing cartography since he was 16 years old for the British military. He has been drawing fictional maps since he was five years old; a hobby-turned full-time job now as an artist at Lowe Mill, mapping people’s life stories on all types of canvas, including the human body.
“With a map on them they’re seeing themselves in a different light and they’re seeing themselves as terrain which is how I view the body,” he said.
Much like his human canvases, the biking quest gave him an opportunity to view the city he’s called home for the past 24 years in a new light too.