Here in Minnesota, some may think that social and gender injustice on the other side of the world doesn’t impact us in our day-to-day lives. But former Minnesota State Senator Jim Carlson, and current bike nut, disagrees.
“Any country where the culture suppresses the freedom and equality of any group or subgroup affects the culture of the entire world. Trade, economics and relationships are affected by the unequal voice in policies of the country,” says Carlson. “Many Minnesotans have links to Afghanistan and sympathies here will put more pressure on changing things there. The 2011 Panjshir Tour – Minneapolis is an effective way for us Minnesotans to combine our passion for bikes with our passion for effecting social change. ”
As the #1 Bike City in the U.S., Minneapolis has earned the right to brag about being at the forefront of an eco-friendly, politically progressive bike culture. One that Carlson fully supported during his tenure in the Senate. “I was the vice chair of the Transportation Committee in the Minnesota Senate and a big supporter of trail funding and usage. I carried a bill to renovate the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge (Long Meadow Bridge), a project which still needs a champion.”
Part of Carlson’s zeal for bikes comes from his travels in China, Japan and Europe where he saw how much communities benefit from pedal power. “It’s astounding. Lower traffic counts, less noise, smaller parking requirements. Flexibility of personal transportation and choice of alternatives provide greater life-quality benefits for any community that supports human-powered transportation. These are all things that Afghanistan can benefit from. Three times I have visited the small town of Vreden in northwest Germany. Everyone in Vreden rides a bicycle or three-wheeler. Parking lots are only for visitors.”
Carlson learned of the Panjshir Tour bike series, an annual bike event that raises funds for Breckenridge, CO-based Mounain2Mountain, through a fellow biker friend, though he’s no stranger to how bikes can empower women.
“In 1896,” Carlson says, “Susan B. Anthony said, ‘Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.’ If our female forbearers in the U.S used bikes to gain freedom of mobility and liberation, think of what they can do for women and girls in Afghanistan. The changes may not go into effect tomorrow, or even next week, but each small step leads to greater strides down the road.”
Indeed, changing the world means stepping up to the plate, being bold, and doing it in the way that is authentic to one’s true self. Baby steps, short crawls, even fifteen miles worth of pedal strokes on October 8th. It all means something.
In the case of Afghanistan and Mountain2Mountain’s 2011 Panjshir Bike Tour series, a mingling of cultures boosts the rights found in both and recognizes women as the solutions and agents of change, instead of as victims. The country of Tunisia has finally figured it out and made an important step toward gender equality by lifting key reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). And then there’s the stunning news from Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council that recommended that “all necessary measures” be taken to ensure that women can vote in the upcoming municipal elections.
“I currently have a wife, a mother, a daughter, three sisters, two sisters-in-law, three nieces and one son,” Carlson says. “The odds are 11-2 at home and higher in total. My daughter is her law-firm’s representative to the NAWL [National Association of Women Lawyers]. Women’s issues are not only important to me, they are survival.”
Carlson used the St. Paul Bike Classic on Sunday, September 11th as his training run for the Minneapolis Panjshir Tour. His bike of choice? A trusty Univega cross-bike with about 7,000 miles on it. It’s the same bike he rode on a Tour de Wyoming in July, 2000 and over a 10,800-foot pass in southwest Utah in September, 2001. “All those miles, all that elevation and it still has the original chain and sprocket set. Two-thousand miles is the normal life of the combo. I’m thinking seriously about replacing it before the Tour. Do you think I should?”