Every Labor Day weekend for the past three years, thousands of Philadelphians have taken off their clothes and hopped on their bikes to take part in the Philly Naked Bike Ride. The PNBR is part of the World Naked Bike Ride which was founded in 2004, created by Conrad Schmidt, a social activist, film maker, and writer.
Schmidt is also the founder of the political party called the Work Less Party of British Columbia. The ride originated in Vancouver, and it wasn’t long until other cities and other countries got involved. The head count of the PNBR has more than doubled from 2009 to 2010.
“I think it’s a great way to get people to recognize the issues about the use of fuel in our cities and the conservation of fuel,” said Julia Strauss, PNBR rider. “As well as the body image, I think it is very important for people of our day and age to be comfortable with your bodies and your self image because of all that’s put on the media.”
The purpose behind the event is to promote cycling advocacy, positive body image and raise awareness about fuel consumption and pollution to the environment caused by automobiles. The Philly Naked Bike Ride is a demonstration, and those involved want it to be known that Philadelphia is a very beautiful and bike-able city. The other aspect of the event, which is nudity, is there simply to draw attention to the ride itself.
“Some could call it a gimmick in a sense, but it is the means of drawing attention to it all,” said Darnelle Radford, head of the Philly Naked Bike Ride marketing committee.
“Ultimately, the bikes take center stage. The reason we are naked is to draw attention to the bikes.”
One of the WNBR slogans is “as bare as you dare,” meaning that everyone is welcome to dress as they like. It is not mandatory to bike nude. But like the past two rides, most of the participants on September 4th were all nude. Most riders wore body paint, others were fully naked. Some riders donned only underwear or spandex. There were even a few costumed riders at the event.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity, not only to have people become more aware of the environment, but also just to have people come together for a cause,” said Amy Borch, Tyler School of Art student and PNBR rider.
“This is harmless fun. You know? People don’t get together for drag races and get naked and paint each other. Just connect with people. I’ve connected more with people on the way here than just walking down the street on a regular day.”
A common question about the event is often, “is this illegal?” But PNBR has never had any legal issues. Prior to the event, the Naked Bike Ride committee contacts the police department and tells them what they expect to happen, where they will be, and the amount of people they expect to attend. The police were at the start point, standing aside watching the riders push off.
“The ride itself is not illegal because we’re not in one specific space in a sense. The demonstration goes through so many parts of the city that we’re not in one place long enough to commit an act of crime,” said Darnelle Radford.
In order to keep involvement in the ride positive, the organizers try to add some secrecy to the preparation of the event. They do not give out more information than they have to. The exact location and starting point of the ride itself is not released until a day or two prior to the ride. The PNBR team only wants to attract interested parties, in an attempt to prevent negative intrusion.
“The ride in itself is a positive thing, we only want people who truly want to be a part of it,” Radford said. “We don’t have time to give opposers time to organize. And that’s what keeps the ride as smooth and positive as it has been.”
Bob Kaplan can be reached at email@example.com.