Under the slogan ‘dress less to impress’ & ‘ as bare as you dare’ thousands of people each year take of (almost) all of their clothes, jump on their bikes and ride through the streets of over 75 cities in 20 countries across the globe.
What started in 2004 as a global coordinated statement and protest against society’s dependency on oil has – ironically – spread as an oil slick across the globe and is currently taking place in over 75 cities across the globe. Today many people ride to promote cycling not only as a viable mode of transportation, but a form which should be celebrated! And why not do that by taking off your clothes to get a bit of global media attention in similar fashion as the ‘No Pants Subway riding movement’.
The Origins: Ciclonudista & Artist for Peace
Prior to the first globally coordinated World Naked Bike Ride event in June 2004, two independent organizations — Artists For Peace/Artists Against War (AFP/AAW) in North America and the Manifestación Ciclonudista in Zaragoza Spain — had been organising very similar political events with virtually identical messages of protesting against oil dependency. Despite having similar political messages neither of these groups knew of the existence of the other until collaboration began many months before the first WNBR event.
Spanish Ciclonudista was held in Zaragoza (Spain) for the first time in 2001 with the goal of claiming back the street to the people who live there and move by their own efforts (walking, cycling, etc.). It was a playful protest against the domination cars and motorized traffic on the streets. The participants of the ciclonudista rode their bikes naked and exposed to reveal the vulnerability of the human body; especially in relation to motorized traffic.
In 2004 Conrad Schmidt – who was one of the AFP/AAW North American naked bike ride organizers in 2003 – wanted to turn the (up to then local) event to a global scale and named it the ‘World Naked Bike Ride’(WNBR). He initiated a collaboration between the Ciclonudista and the AFP/AAW and took the event to a truly global scale.
WNBR rapidly started to come to life through collaborations with activist groups and individuals around the world. The 2004 WNBR saw events in 28 cities, in ten countries on four continents. By 2014, WNBR had expanded to stage rides in over 75 cities, in 20 countries around the world, from the United States to United Kingdom and Hungary to Paraguay.
Nudity as a fun way of raising awareness
“We’re using nudity as a way to draw attention to cycling, and the folly of oil dependency. We hope motorists will begin to suspect cyclists have more fun, and hence maybe they don’t need their cars as much as they thought. See thehttp://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/ web site for more socio-political propaganda. But after all it is just good old, goofy fun!”
Participants get increasingly creative with body paint, minimalistic costumes and even funky taglines to the likes of #nicerack
And even when a naked bike rider gets a flat tire it stays fun and funky with a quick patching job.
Critical Mass vs. Critical Ass
The Naked Bike Ride has strong connections with the Critical Mass cycling movement. Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in many cities around the world. Its purpose is not usually formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through world cities by bike.
The event originated in 1992 in San Francisco and by the end of 2003, the event was being held in over 300 cities around the world.
The Naked Bike Ride as a distinctive form of Critical Mass is occasionally called Critical Ass. It is often described or categorised as a form of political protest, street theatre, party-on-wheels, streaking, public nudity and clothing-optional recreation. Basically it is a lot of things at once and thus attracts a wide range of participants.
The Portland Pedalpalooza
The biggest and most famous of all the world naked bike rides is the one organised in Portland, Oregon. By now it is part of Pedalpalooza bicycle festival. Every year in June Pedalpalooza comprises three + weeks of bikey fun with over 250 cycling related events, parties and happenings. The naked bike ride is one of the highlights of the festival and draws in thousands of bare and nude cyclists.
In 2014 the Portland Naked bike ride had 9060 participants making it the world’s biggest such gathering ever. That’s some kickass pedal power!
If you’re struggling to understand why thousands of people would ride naked through the streets of Portland or if you just want to get an idea about the open, liberal and fun vibe on these rides you should watch the below kickass documentary on Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride.