Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to meet Anna Brones, writer, artist, and Impact Producer of the film, Afghan Cycles.
From the website: “Afghan Cycles is a feature documentary about a generation of Afghan women who are pedaling their own revolution, aggressively challenging gender and cultural barriers using the bicycle as a vehicle for freedom, empowerment and social change.”
Heck yeah is what I say! When I first learned about Afghan Cycles, I knew I wanted to learn more and help spread the word about the film that she, along with Sarah Menzies and Jenny Nichols, made and the courageous women they documented. I connected with Anna who was managing their instagram account and she graciously agreed to do an interview! Read more to learn about Anna’s most memorable ride, how she’s using cycling as a force for good, and more in her 1×10 interview.
1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?
When I was little, probably around the age of 7 or 8, my father bought a blue Burley tandem. At the beginning I was so small that I couldn’t reach the pedals and we had to install a kidback system, allowing for a set of cranks to be placed higher so that I too could ride! We rode Seattle to Portland five different times, as well as lots of weekend rides as a family. I didn’t know it then, but I think that all that riding at a very early age set the stage for my love of cycling.
2. Favorite Bike (that you own or covet)?
3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?
A few summers ago my husband and I rode from our house near Seattle, Washington to San Francisco. I had just written a book called Hello, Bicycle, so I stopped and did book events along the way. That trip was memorable because it was my first big bike tour, and we met so many interesting people along the way. I think that bike tours, big and small, are special because they create space for serendipity, like being invited to a stranger’s home for dinner, which feels a lot different from our everyday lives.
“I think that bike tours, big and small, are special because they create space for serendipity, like being invited to a stranger’s home for dinner, which feels a lot different from our everyday lives.”
4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?
Jude Gerace, Dervla Murphy, Natalie Ramsland, Elly Blue, Tessa Hulls and all of the women around the world, like the ones in Afghan Cycles, who ride their bicycles despite being told they shouldn’t.
“…all of the women around the world, like the ones in Afghan Cycles, who ride their bicycles despite being told they shouldn’t.”
5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?
Just get on the bicycle and ride. I think we can get so focused on gear and technicalities in the bicycle world, that we forget how simple of a machine the bicycle is. Find a bicycle, get on it, pedal, and get that smile on your face just like when you were a kid.
“Find a bicycle, get on it, pedal, and get that smile on your face just like when you were a kid.”
6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?
I appreciate that there is an ongoing discussion about gender equity in the cycling industry. There is a long way to go, but I feel like there are so many people challenging us to rethink norms and to grow the industry in a more inclusive way.
7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?
For the last few years I have served as the Impact Producer of the feature documentary Afghan Cycles. The film profiles women cyclists in Afghanistan, and the challenges they face. It premiered in early 2018 and was released online in March 2019. Since then we have been working hard to organize grassroots screenings of the film in a variety of cities, in order to showcase the bicycle as a vehicle for social change and to encourage people to take action in their own communities. It’s easy to look at places like Afghanistan and think, “oh, that’s their problem.” Afghanistan is one of the hardest places to be a woman, so I don’t want to avoid the realities of the differences of what it means to be a woman here in the U.S. and there, but at the same time, we too have so many gender barriers that we face as female cyclists too. It was not that long ago that the thought of a woman on a bicycle was considered unsightly, and you don’t have to look very far to spot the gender inequities that women who ride struggle with today.
Last year, we hosted a panel after a screening in Brooklyn, and Kala La Fortune Reed, the founder of Girls On Bikes was one of the panelists. I had asked her if there were any parallels between what she saw in the film and what she saw in her community, and she noted that a lot of the girls in their program are told by their families that they shouldn’t ride. The reasons might be a little different than in Afghanistan, but the reality is that the barrier is still there. That has always stuck with me, and I have brought it up in screenings ever since.
If people are interested in hosting a screening, we would love for them to get in touch!
“It was not that long ago that the thought of a woman on a bicycle was considered unsightly, and you don’t have to look very far to spot the gender inequities that women who ride struggle with today.”
8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?
I think that individuals make choices that lead to collective impact. One person can’t take responsibility for change, but one person has a part in making change. I believe that the bicycle is a powerful tool, not just for getting us from point A to point B but for changing society. Look at the work that organizations like World Bicycle Relief (click here for 1×10 with F.K. Day, founder of World Bicycle Relief) are doing, or look at the women in Afghan Cycles; a bicycle is literally a life-changing tool. We would all, both as humans and as a planet, would be better off with more people on bicycles. But I am not the only one who thinks so, and I would hope that every single action that we all take, no matter how small, contributes to the overall cultural shift that empowers everyone to get on a bicycle.
“One person can’t take responsibility for change, but one person has a part in making change.”
9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?
When it comes to women’s rights and gender equity, there is so much work to be done, on a variety of levels, and the obstacles can feel endless. But ultimately, you have to get up in the morning and ask yourself “how can I make change today?” Maybe that’s as simple as a conversation, or asking a question. Those might feel like small acts, but they are essential.
“But ultimately, you have to get up in the morning and ask yourself “how can I make change today?” Maybe that’s as simple as a conversation, or asking a question. Those might feel like small acts, but they are essential.”
10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?
Organize a screening of Afghan Cycles in your community (or stream it at home) and support groups that are using the bicycle to make change, whether that’s to provide means of transportation to refugees, provide bicycle education to youth or just gather together more women for group rides.
Anna Brones, is a writer, artist, and the Impact Producer of Afghan Cycles. When she’s not creating amazing things, you can probably find her out riding around the Pacific Northwest!
Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at email@example.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.