Category Archives: Advocacy

Shannon Galpin: Riding to Revolution in Afghanistan

Shannon Galpin Mountain Biking Afghanistan
Shannon Galpin mountain biking in Afghanistan. Photo by Deni Bechard.

Most cyclists would agree that the bicycle is far more than the sum of its parts. As a means of transportation it has implications for climate change, socioeconomics, equity. As a sport it is medicine for our mental and physical well being. As a culture it connects us to people far and wide. And though it touches so many facets of our lives and is an important tool for change, most of us in developed countries would stop short of saying that bicycling is revolutionary. In a country such as Afghanistan however, bicycling has the potential for revolutionary transformation. It is, as Shannon Galpin discovered, a metaphorical and literal vehicle for improving the lives of women and girls living in a country consistently ranked among the worst on women’s rights.

Galpin first traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 as as founder and President of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in conflict zones. Her work initially involved a wide array of arts and education projects. Then in 2009 she brought her mountain bike to the country, went for some rides, sparked the sort of conversations with locals she needed to have about why women weren’t allowed to bike, and found the new focal point for her mission. The intersection of bicycling and Afghani women’s rights was further solidified in 2012 when she met the newly-created women’s National Cycling Team. Now Galpin is working to support the team and use cycling as sport to shift the cultural taboos about women biking for transportation and fun. Along the way, she has written a memoir, helped produce a documentary, given TED talks, and continued advancing Mountain2Mountain’s mission. I spoke to Galpin about her work in Afghanistan, breaking norms as a woman on a bike, projects with Mountain2Mountain, the National Cycling Team, and much more.

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Bike News Troll Bingo

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Inspired by the trolls rushing to comment on the news of Seattle’s recently launched bike share, I give you Bike News Commenter Bingo. Click the image for your full size bingo card.

Tim Blumenthal: The National Fight for People Who Bike

Bikes Belong Staff Portraits
PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal. Photo courtesy PeopleForBikes

Bike advocacy is a sweeping term that captures a huge array of work. Fighting for better bike infrastructure on neighborhood streets, building new mountain bike trails, organizing charity rides, lobbying elected officials and many other things fit under that rather large umbrella of advocacy. Some might see that diversity of advocacy issues as a problem–that lots of sub-interests competing for limited funding and public attention will curb success for all. PeopleForBikes sees that variety as a boon to bicycling in America. The national advocacy organization helps fund everything from protected bike lanes to mountain bike parks; lobbies government agencies and elected officials; partners with professional cycling teams; provides grant funding; organizes their own charity ride; and much more. They’re guided by the basic principle that the more people ride, the better bicycling will be for everyone, regardless of what type of riding they do.

With over three decades of work in advocacy and bike racing, PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal is a fitting leader. He got his start as a cycling journalist for publications such as VeloNews and Bicycling, worked with NBC on cycling coverage for seven Olympics, and spent 11 years at the helm of the International Mountain Bike Association before joining PeopleForBikes. I spoke to Blumenthal about PeopleForBikes’ work, his career in the cycling world, the value of combining cycling-as-sport and cycling-as-transportation in advocacy work, the strengths and shortcomings of American bike advocacy, and more.

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Ed Ewing: Race, Equity, and Empowerment by Bike

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto Courtesy of Cascade Bicycle Club. 

Cycling has a reputation for being a white man’s sport, hobby, and transportation. It’s an image rooted in truth—white people accounted for about 80 percent of the cycling population in the US as of 2009—but it’s far from a complete picture. From 2001-2009, the rates of cycling among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians grew far more than among whites. Ed Ewing is working hard to keep that trend going. He is Cascade Bicycle Club’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion and co-founder of the Major Taylor Project, a program that uses cycling to empower underserved youths in the Seattle-area.

I sat down with Ed at his office to talk about his work with the Major Taylor Project, how it got started, his history in racing, racism he’s experienced as an African American cyclist, the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in cycling and bike advocacy, and much more. Through the course of our conversation, Ed dove deep. He discusses the systemic issues of race and discrimination, policies like neighborhood redlining, and poverty that shape the lives of the students he works with and explains how cycling is connected to all of it. As he says in the interview, it’s always about more than just getting kids on bikes.

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Aaron Naparstek: the Evolution of an Advocate from Honku to StreetsBlog and Beyond (Part 2)

aaronnaperstekfamily
Aaron and family. Photo by Clarence Eckerson via StreetFilms.org.

In the past decade, New York City has seen a remarkable transformation from one of America’s worst bike cities to one of its most progressive. Like any political movement, the change was a confluence of many, many factors. And Aaron Naparstek seems to have had his hands in a whole lot of them. From Honku–a neighborhood campaign centered on haiku about traffic–to work with Transportation Alternatives to founding StreetsBlog, he has played an important role in New York City’s evolution towards walkable, bikeable, livable streets.

In part one of this far-reaching interview, Aaron discussed his current work as a MIT Visiting Scholar and his recent Loeb Fellowship at Harvard, his roots in neighborhood activism and streets advocacy, and the foundation and growth of StreetsBlog, an influential advocacy journalism outlet in the livable streets movement. Part two continues with our discussion of pivotal moments in the history of New York City’s bike advocacy, the work necessary to continue its growth as a bike-friendly place, and the successes and shortcomings of modern American bike advocacy at large.

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