Meet our speaker: Shannon Galpin

Shannon Galpin is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2013, global activist, and founder of the non profit Mountain2Mountain which has spearheaded dozens of projects in Afghanistan for women’s rights. In 2009 she became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan and has continued to ride in each over her 22 visit to Afghanistan. Shannon is the author of her memoir, Mountain to Mountain, and is a producer for the upcoming documentary film, Afghan Cycles, premiering in 2018. Read more about Shannon on our speaker page of her website and follow her on Twitter @sgalpin or Instagram @sgalpin74!

Shannon is a speaker in the sub plenary session 'Cycling Through Barriers Around the World'. We had a quick interview with Shannon on cycling and her upcoming visit to Velo-city 2017.

You will be speaking in the session ‘Cycling Through Barriers Around the World. What do you want to present at the session?

I hope to share that the bike is much more than a vehicle for transportation, it is quite literally a vehicle for social justice and equality. The bicycle is freedom, particularly for women, it is a tool to fight gender violence in both urban and rural communities, and it is a symbol of freedom that dates back over a century both in American and throughout Europe in the women’s rights movement, something we are now seeing echoed in the countries where the bike is beginning to be linked to equality and women’s rights in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and Iran in similar ways today.

What is your favorite place to ride a bike and why?

I am a singlespeed mountain biker at my heart, and so I love to ride in the mountains of Colorado. But I have to share that I fell in love with bikes because I moved to Europe when I was 20, and became a daily commuter because of the acceptance of bikes on roads and access of bike paths. For me the bike is something I use to explore new places, and I am excited to now have the excuse to ride here in Holland for the first time!

What can you teach the Dutch on cycling?

I think its probably very difficult to teach the Dutch anything about cycling, this is definitely a space they are known for worldwide! But I think that it’s important to remember that not everyone has the right to ride like we have in Europe and America, that riding bikes is not just about transportation, good health, the environment, and better access, its also about gender and equality across much of the world. Access to bicycles can bring access to education and healthcare, and in countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, it can literally bring freedom of mobility and social justice to women and girls. I’d like to see more work being done with bikes and refugees in Europe as a way to integrate and to provide access and mobility.

What does The Freedom of Cycling mean to you?

Freedom of Cycling means looking beyond infrastructure, and into social justice movements through bicycles and cycling. There are some incredible success stories like the Rwandan cycling team that used the sport of cycling as a reconciliation tool after the genocide, or how I used cycling as a way to normalize bikes for girls in a country like Afghanistan where girls are not allowed to ride because of deep seated taboos of morality. Freedom of cycling is freedom to explore the world we live in.  

Are you looking forward to Velo-city 2017 and what is on your Velo-city to-do list?

I have never had the opportunity to explore Holland on bicycle, so I’m very excited to have the opportunity to take part in some of the bike rides and explore . I’m still looking through the calendar - but I am very keen to visit the Bicycle Museum and joining one of the Amsterdammer for a Day tours.

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