Shelter City Bike Challenge 2018: Thank you!

Message from Director of Justice and Peace Netherlands, Sebastiaan van der Zwaan

On Sunday 20 May, we cycled the final stage of the Shelter City Bike Challenge: a cycle race that visits the eleven Dutch Shelter Cities that provide safe spaces for human rights defenders. A challenge that shows that cities all over the Netherlands and even beyond (in the three international Shelter City hubs) support the important work of human rights defenders.

When we welcomed the eleventh Dutch Shelter City to our network in December 2017, one of the first supporters of our programme reacted: “Wow, eleven cities. I feel an ‘Elfstedentocht’ is coming up!”. In reaction to this, we embarked on our own version of the Elfstedentocht. From 14 to 20 May, we cycled across the 11 Dutch Shelter Cities, from Groningen to Maastricht, via Zwolle, Deventer, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Den Haag, Middelburg, Tilburg and Nijmegen.

I would like to express my gratitude to everyone, including the people, organisations and human rights defenders involved in the Shelter City initiative, who came to welcome us, whether it was at an event or even somewhere on the road to bike with us into the city. In every city, the cyclists were met with cheers and kind words. We witnessed the growing importance of Shelter City in each city, the influence the programme has on the human rights defenders we met and also what it contributes to their work. Throughout the Bike Challenge, time and again we saw the great local solidarity for human rights that lives in each city. It is because of this solidarity that temporary safe spaces for change makers can be provided and supported.

I would also like to extend my thanks to every cyclist that joined us on this challenge. Over the course of these 7 days, we cycled 850 km together with more than 30 cyclists. Some joined us for one day, others for longer, and some even joined for the whole 850 km! I want to thank each and every one of you for the great ambiance and for your support in defending the work of human rights defenders. It is incredible how you all took time out of you busy schedule to cycle with us. You came from all over the Netherlands and some even abroad. I got to know most of you much better, and it was a pleasure and an honor for me to be cycling with you!

We are not at the end of our campaign, but it’s incredible to see that we have already got to the 15.000 euro mark! This is because of the contributions and great work of all of you, in the cities and on the bikes! We have heard many of you speak enthusiastically about the Bike Challenge and when you can participate or contribute in some way again. We will be announcing soon when and how we will be continuing. After cycling this distance, I am really proud of the great work all of you are doing in the Shelter Cities. Incredible what we can achieve together in a strong network of human rights cities if we put our mind to it and work together! I will be continuing my work with renewed energy and conviction because of you. Thank you all, you made this Shelter City Bike Challenge 2018 unforgettable!       

Sebastiaan van der Zwaan, Director of Justice and Peace Netherlands


Day 1: Start of the SCBC. Morning send off with Shelter City Groningen!


Day 1: Human rights event at Windesheim Honours College.


Day 1: Deventer – Members from Gemeente Deventer, Saxion, and Humanitas with cyclists.


Day 1: Deventer – Welcoming in Deventer with Mayor Andries Heidema.


Day 2: Utrecht – Shelter City plaque ceremony at the Human Rights Cafe with Mayor Jan van Zanen.


Day 3: Amsterdam – Shelter City plaque ceremony with Jan-Bert Vroege from Gemeente Amsterdam.


Day 3: Haarlem – Group photo in Haarlem with Shelter City Haarlem partners.


Day 3: Den Haag – Group photo with members from Groen Links Den Haag and Gemeente Den Haag.

Day 4: Middelburg – Warm welcoming in Middelburg with human rights defender, Diana, and students from UCR.

Day 4: Middelburg – Shelter City plaque ceremony with Alderman, Saskia Szarafinski.

Day 5: Tilburg – Meeting with Alderman Marcelle Hendrickx and partners from Shelter City Tilburg.

Day 5: Tilburg – Welcoming at Rabobank Tilburg.

Day 6: Nijmegen – Cyclist group photo at the Music Meeting in Nijmegen!

Day 6: Nijmegen – With Shelter City Nijmegen coordinator, Qader Shafiq.

Day 6: Nijmegen – Shelter City plaque ceremony with Mayor Hubert Bruls.

Day 7: On the way to Maastricht!

Day 7: Maastricht – Group photo with Shelter City Maastricht partners and human rights defender, Irwin.