Monday, 8 September 2014

Pedals of solidarity: McKinney bike shop joins global women’s rights initiative

A male-dominated sport has become a vehicle for promoting women’s rights. Cyclists around the world, including in McKinney, joined pedals Saturday in the first-ever Global Solidarity Ride. More than 70 cyclist groups in 15 different countries rode at the same time to show support for the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team, which desires to break down gender barriers in the Middle East and beyond. “It was really exciting to know that you and a whole bunch of other people worldwide were riding at the same time, all in support of such a wonderful cause,” said Ann Hiner, organizer of the ride from Cadence Cyclery in downtown McKinney.
The bike shop, which also has a Highland Village location, is the starting point for Saturday morning rides every weekend, but not like this. About 40 men and women rode 15 miles with police escort while other cyclists far away – beginners to professionals – shared in the experience.
Riders posted photographs and hashtags #livbeyond and #solidarityride2014 to connect in purpose and virtually. Liv, a women’s cycling brand from Giant Bicycles, promoted the international ride to back its renowned brand ambassador Shannon Galpin, who founded Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of women in conflict areas.
Cycling is one of many activities forbidden to Afghan women, but this doesn’t intimidate Galpin. Soon after going to Afghanistan in 2009 to help with women’s rights, she became the first woman to ride a mountain bike in the country, Hiner said. She’s since formed the national team and repeatedly rides where few others will.
The Afghan team was one of the cyclist groups riding Saturday. Beforehand, Galpin said in a released statement the ride would “illustrate how the bike is a revolutionary tool for social justice in countries around the word” and “show the world the real meaning of bravery.”
“As long as women are considered inferior, a society will continue to be backward and unable to achieve what it wants to achieve,” said Hind Jarrah, executive director of Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, a local women's shelter for domestic abuse victims. “Whenever there’s empowerment and emboldening of women, we support it.”
Hiner, a cyclist for more than 20 years, works at Cadence Cyclery and acts as Giant’s area ambassador for women’s cycling. She passed out fliers about the Solidarity Ride and then led the way around the scenery that attracts her to the sport.
“Cycling offers a different view on life and your surroundings,” Hiner said. “Here, we can get out of town in about three miles and have those country roads available to us.”
That’s nothing new to Cadence Cyclery and its weekend warriors. Neither is womanly promotion, which is ingrained in the shop. Chris Lorance, shop manager, met his wife at a bike race, and the two ride together all the time.
Once women get past the intimidation of a first ride with mostly men, their interest in the sport can carry them to another gear, according to Lorance. Hiner has introduced many female friends to cycling only to see them now easily out-pedal her on the road.
She expects the global ride to become an annual initiative, but she and others in the U.S. realize one ride isn’t enough to break the barriers in front of women every day. The fight for women’s rights requires solidarity, though, even if cycling activists are far from the social finish line.
“For us just to go and do a ride and get the word out is nothing in comparison to what [Galpin’s] doing and what the women of Afghanistan are doing,” Lorance said. “How much they’re challenging the system is incredible.”


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