Biking to end human trafficking

Dug Shelby is riding 5,000 miles cross country

On a handmade recumbent bicycle constructed out of bamboo, Dug Shelby left Paso Robles on Sept. 16 for a 5,000 mile trek to New York on an athletic endeavor to bring about more awareness to the issue of human trafficking.

The cross-country journey will have Shelby, a cab driver and photographer, traveling completely unsupported – that means no support vehicle or other riders. His plan is to complete the ride in 45 days at an average of over 100 miles per day.

“This will not be a leisurely bike ride,” Shelby said. “I want to put myself out there; the people that I am riding for do not have easy lives and what I am doing is nothing compared to what they have endured.”

Shelby was drawn to sharing the plight of the victims of human trafficking when he was on a photography assignment in India in 2008. There, he witnessed firsthand the plight of women and children being forced into sexual slavery in the Dubai red light district.

“I saw 10 and 11 year old girls working the red light district,” he said, “and I witnessed women and children who were being rehabilitated through the organization I was working with. I have two sisters and three nieces and it really hit home for me; these are someone’s daughters.”

Shelby could not forget the faces of the people he had been photographing and he knew he must do something to bring awareness to their plight.

“The more I researched, the more I found out that human trafficking is a worldwide problem,” Shelby said. “It also exists right here in the United States; it’s just more hidden and sometime harder to see. I felt such discontent and I knew I had to do something.”

From writing about the issue on his blog, to raising funds for victims, to talking to just about anyone who will listen, Shelby has spent endless hours dedicated to the betterment of the lives of others.

In 2011, Shelby spent four months hiking 2,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada, to raise awareness to the issue of human trafficking. He sees his current effort of biking across the U.S. as the next natural progression to his cause.

“While I was hiking, I kept thinking ‘what’s next?’ From that, I decided to establish a non-profit which is just about complete,” he said. “Then I starting thinking about biking and that’s how this came about.”

Working 75-plus hours per week over the past year to gear up financially, Shelby, 44, said the support from his employer, friends and family was tremendous as he prepared for the journey. Choosing not to stay in hotels, he will be camping each night along the way.

His custom made bicycle was donated for the trip by Klaus Volkmann, an expert in bamboo bicycle craftsmanship from Porto Alegre, Brazil. While several bicyclists have crossed the United States on standard diamond frame bikes made of wood, no one has succeeded, let alone attempted, crossing on a wooden recumbent.

“The bike gets a lot of attention,” Shelby said. “I have people stop and talk to me all the time and that’s great. I can talk about the bike and then let them know what I am doing. I have cards that I hand out as well, directing people to my blog and website if they want more information.”

“By pushing myself mentally and physically like this, while attempting something a little outrageous, I hope to make a difference in the lives of those that need our help. What I am doing to bring about awareness is not hard compared to what I have seen,” Shelby said. “The smiles of the women and children that I have seen being rehabilitated keep me motivated; I have to keep going.”

To follow along as Shelby completes his cross country bicycle trip visit his blog/website at All funds raised directly benefit organizations that assist victims of human trafficking. His website has additional information and there is a link for those wishing to make a donation. Encourage Shelby by sending him an email at

Meagan Friberg - Central Coast Active