A large platoon of cyclists runs through the city. It is Mexico City, but it could well be Vancouver, Portland, Madrid, Paris, Berlin or any other city on the planet. They don’t go fast. Nor is it any of those famous tour de France-style cycling competitions. The vast majority of the protagonists who on this occasion ride bicycles or wear skates go with their bodies semi or totally naked.
Those naked cyclists demand respect, visibility and space on streets and highways; they protest against the many cycling accidents; They promote the transportation of human locomotion and the reduction of environmental pollution produced by motor vehicles. This type of manifestation is called The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). Translated into Spanish it would be “Nude World Bike Ride” although it is also known as “World Cycling Manifestation”. In essence, it is a massive protest/bike ride that breaks down prejudices and circumvents any modesty to pedal naked or semi-naked through crowded and busy places in a city and make various social and environmental demands heard.
This peaceful protest has its genesis in Vancouver, Canada. Conrad Schmidt, a filmmaker and social activist, was its manager when creating Artists for Peace/Artists Against War (AFP/AAW). Schmidt, in front of 50 naked demonstrators, led a performance in 2003 against the possible intervention of the US army in Iraq. The skin-deep bodies formed a sign of peace against the war in a public park.
At that time, in other parts of the planet, such as in regions of the United States and in Zaragoza, Spain, there were some isolated demonstrations of naked “bicycling” carried out by small groups of people.
That allowed Conrad Schmidt to coordinate the world’s first nude bike ride, which took place on June 12, 2004. Twenty-eight cities in ten countries saw naked bikers parade through their streets. In some places it was just a couple of cyclists, like in Brazil, where two completely naked cyclists braved low temperatures and a torrential downpour.
“The first naked bike ride we organized in Vancouver had only 13 people; but it was the best trip we organized. Even though we only had 13 cyclists, we cycled directly past Vancouver’s largest police station and didn’t cycle quietly either. Courage is the first step towards solutions”, said Conrado Schmidt in a 2005 interview.
The initiative gained popularity around the world and The World Naked Bike Ride became a global collective. Almost two decades after that first global demonstration, in June of this year, hundreds of thousands of people were protagonists of the World Naked Bike Ride in more than 200 cities on five continents.
In the first editions, the message focused only on protesting against oil dependence and claiming the individual freedom of the human body. Then the fight against the car culture, the rights of cyclists and their vulnerability in urban traffic were incorporated. “Cleaner environment, safer roads, healthier lifestyles, better attitudes!” is the motto that sums up the demands of World Naked Bike Ride.
The first interventions, especially in the United States, were interrupted by the police. Several of the protesters were arrested and charged with public indecency. Although public nudity is still illegal and penalized, the relevance and massification of cycling, as this protest action is also known, is already validated by the authorities of the different countries where it is almost always carried out in the month of June.
On the website of World Naked Bike Ride there are a number of interesting and illuminating questions and answers about these protest activities: “Is it legal to be naked in public?”
It depends on the laws of the country in which the individual rides take place. Public nudity is often more acceptable than you think, as long as the behavior of the naked people in question is not lewd, aggressive, or violent. For countries with stricter laws, the trip is “as naked as you dare”: full nudity is not mandatory! Even if local law prohibits nudity, police will generally take no action to cite or arrest passengers participating in a large group ride – safety in numbers!
What does riding a bike naked have to do with environmental protest?
We confront automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way to defend our dignity and expose the unique dangers that cyclists and pedestrians face, as well as the negative consequences that we all face due to dependence on oil and other forms of non-renewable energy. .
Do I have to ride naked? Can I participate dressed or without a shirt?
The World Naked Bike Ride dress code is “as simple as you dare”. How naked is that? How dare you? It’s all up to you: you decide what you feel comfortable with. The trip without clothes is optional.
No one is excluded or discriminated based on levels of clothing, body paint, or anything else!
While nudity is not required to participate in this journey, we encourage you to challenge yourself. Wear as little as you can while still feeling comfortable about it. Last year, people came in shorts, bras, swimsuits, body paint, masks, etc. All your body. Respect your own limits and go as naked as you dare!
What if I’m not conventionally attractive?
Excellent! Please come to the ride! We will all be there to travel with you and celebrate the strength and individuality of your body. People of all ages, sizes, builds and appearances ride World Naked Bike Ride. On the ride, you will be treated with dignity and respect no matter what your body looks like.
One of the surprising impacts of this journey is to show the world how varied real bodies can be; unlike the photoshopped images that flood the media and cause so much insecurity.”
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) on road safety in the world reveals that, since the invention of the automobile, in 1886, more than 50 million people have died in road accidents. 136 years after that automotive invention that changed the world and despite the constant development of this industry, the number of deaths in car accidents is far from falling. The WHO itself estimates that, annually, fatalities increase to an average of 1.35 million. A large part of the deceased people are not car drivers but pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Particularly the increase in the number of cycling-related crashes is alarming. It is due, on the one hand, to the fact that for decades riding a bicycle became more than a recreational and sports activity. In large cities, the use of bicycles as a means of transport is becoming more and more popular. On the other hand, there is the lack of infrastructure in cities for the circulation of cyclists and the lack of awareness and solidarity of motorists to share the public road.