Nine Canadian cities take part in eco-friendly global event
In cities across the world last Saturday, thousands braved the leering and ogling of their fellow humankind to partake in the annual World Naked Bike Ride Day (WNBR) ride.
Canadians were represented in force as on both coasts–a mari usque ad mare–as nude bike pedallers took to the streets in the altogether in Vancouver, B.C. and Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the event has been held for three years running (sorry). The east-coast edition was sponsored by cycling and naturist clubs and is intended to promote bicycling as an environmentally friendlier alternative to cars and other fossil-fuel powered conveyances. Thirty bicyclist took part in the Halifax ride and temperatures were in the low twenties (Celsius) and seventies (Farenheit).
Other Canadian sites for the WNBR include Drumheller, Alberta; Guelph, London, Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Prince George and Victoria, B.C.
The countries which scheduled 2010 rides were Australia, Argentina, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States. Other venues are listed as tentative, or in the WNBR vernacular, requiring a “kick-start” to ensure completion while those listed as “committed” were cities where sufficient numbers have shown up and participated in previous years.
The event was christened in the U.K. and its largest turnout was in London where an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 naked cyclists took part in the ride which started at Hyde Park. Although nudity was encouraged, the organizers adopted an “As Bare as You Dare” dress code. Guidelines on that subjective standard were provided at the World Naked Bike Ride website:
How bare is that? How dare is that? It’s all up to you. You decide what you are comfortable with. No one is excluded or discriminated against based on levels of clothing, bodypaint, or anything else for that matter!…We paint our bodies and decorate our bikes with political messages or beautiful designs to complement our forms. Please be creative and colorful in expressing yourself! Bodypainting, bike decorating, and other creative expression is strongly encouraged! We pass out flyers informing the public about our message. We use portable public address systems or raise our voices and chant in unison. Getting people to laugh and smile is a great way to connect and share ideas in a non-threatening way.
Shifting to a car-free lifestyle
Notwithstanding the levity about riding naked, there is a serious theme or “message” underlying the event–that “shifting to a car-free lifestyle is one of the most powerful things a person can do to make a real difference in reducing negative environmental impacts on this planet.”
According to Conrad Schmidt, Canadian WNBR organizer in Vancouver: “Our message to the world is one of simplification, human harmony and love.” “For a future to exist for tomorrow’s generations,” Schmidt professes,”we have to stop wasting the life blood energy of the Earth, stop fighting and killing in the name of consumerist wealth accumulation and learn to love and respect all life on this planet.”
The organizers of NWBR have an equally serious commitment to raising humanity above gas-powered vehicles as a social and political priority for our governments, including what they term “the indecent exposure” of human beings to the environmental and health problems created by automobiles and traffic. They also endorse nudity in the act of bike riding as a healthy way to promote positive body image and awareness.
In the pursuit of these social aims, they may be forgiven for their penchant for punning and double entendres, as when they declare on their website that the naked event “strips the complexities from modern transport to a simplified message of cycling.” Part of that wordplay may derive from the dichotomy within the WNBR community itself, being divided between “social nudity” and cycling advocates.
About being naked, not sexual
Conrad Schmidt, one of the cycling event’s Canadian spokes-persons, is among those who emphasize the primacy of the cycling movement and sees it as the event’s main focus.
In addition to organizing the B.C. ride, Schmidt is also a founder of the Work Less Party and author of the related “manifesto”, Workers of the World Relax: The Simple Economics of Less Industrial Work. The WLP’s constitution declares its goal as being “to create community,” eschewing “confrontational politics” in favour of “promoting positive dialogue and raising awareness though creative events ,forums, debates, films and books.”
The first World Naked Bike Ride was held on June 12th, 2004, under the English title, although in French, Spanish and Italian-speaking locations, it goes under the more exotic name of Ciclonudista.
There are a complex of issues that local WNBR organizers have to address in staging their version of the worldwide event. For example, in Montpelier, Vermont, the WNBR website includes a primer on the state and municipal ordinances relating to public nudity. Participants are warned that they should “know the laws about public nudity and the laws about bicycling” to ensure “a safe event and avoid any unwanted contact with police.”
With those objectives in mind, the Vermont organizers point out that “in Vermont, while it is not illegal to be naked in public, it is illegal to disrobe in public” and, accordingly, urges riders to “please respect this law and disrobe indoors only” at mandatory “indoor disrobing and rerobing spaces”. Furthermore, Montpelier laws make it an offence to “publicly make an indecent, immodest or immoral exhibition” of one’s “person…” which “is generally interpreted as referring to lewdness.”
To that end, as with the WNBR events in other cities around the planet, the point is also emphasized that “this event is about being naked…not about being sexual.”