Women

04.17.13

In Afghanistan, Bikes for Women

How one American is fighting gender taboos in the conservative country.

In Afghanistan, female bicyclists are considered immoral, ranking somewhere between car drivers and runaways or women spotted “in the company of a man who is not a relative.” Shannon Galpin, a Coloradan and Pilates instructor, grew accustomed to being the only woman on the road on her frequent visits to Afghanistan, until one day she learned from a barista in a café that others had begun cycling, and had even formed a team: “Dressed in long pants and full sleeves, with headscarves tucked beneath their helmets, they practiced on the highways before dawn on dated road bikes, accompanied by the coach of the men’s cycling team.” Heartened by this development, Galpin has made it her mission to help them. She plans to give out bicycle gear for both the men’s and women’s teams today, comprising everything from shoes to bike seats to 200 jerseys, vetted for any potentially offensive beer advertisements. Along with five other women, she will make a short film about the donation, titled Afghan Cycles.