June 10, 2014
Have Helmet? Get Nekkid.
Last weekend was the tenth organized World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), in Portland, Oregon. While Portland didn’t originate WNBR – Canadian Conrad Schmidt is credited with creating the protest ride in 2003, and now it occurs in about 75 cities and 20 countries – Portland’s ride is one of the most famous and well attended, perhaps because of Portland’s Portlandia reputation for weirdness, and its cycle-friendly attitude.
Every year Portland’s ride has gotten bigger. Last year, more than 8,000 Portlanders got out for the ride, compared to the 125 who rode in 2004. From the look of the park in the photo above, this year’s ride may top that body count.
The theme of WNBR is ‘as bare as you dare,’ which gives riders complete free will in how much skin they want to show. Some critics are offended by lots of people getting naked and claiming the streets for a bike ride whose route stays secret until just before its start. Others grouse about WNBR because it is a bottleneck for cars trying to drive across town during the ride. For most participants, the ride is just good, goofy, and goosebumpy fun.
Yet what many people may fail to realize is that the purpose of all that bare flesh is to palpably demonstrate how vulnerable bike riders can be in street traffic.
“The World Naked Bike Ride originated as a protest against society’s dependency on oil,” says the Portland WNBR web site. “We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity and exposing the vulnerability faced by cyclists and pedestrians on our streets.”
Another mantra of WNBR organizers is “safe, comfortable, and fun,” which is why they actually recommend two items for riders (whatever crazy body paint or adornment they might otherwise decide on): shoes, and a helmet.
The shoes protect and keep feet warm when the weather goes a little Portland-esque, and the helmet is great brain protection. Best Nutcase spotted at WNBR 2014? Well, we can’t show a photo because that’s NSFW (Not Suitable For Work). But our personal favorite was the Star Bright bike accompanied by a shocking pink wig and some sparkly aqua paint.