“How did you get the idea?” I think is one of the most common questions that people or reporters ask the riders during the event. The most common answer for cities that start the ride some years later is something like, “We read about it, we think that this is great and must to be done here”.
The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is an international clothing-optional event that protests against oil dependency and celebrates the power and individuality of our bodies. The first ride was celebrated in Zaragoza, Spain and year-by-year more cities around the world are added to the list of places with a ride. Today, there are about 75 rides around the world, taking place annually. The fact that many people around the world are demanding the same things – in the same way and on the same day (second Saturday of March to the southern hemisphere and the second Saturday of June to the northern hemisphere) – gives a special power to the protest.
The objectives of the WNBR are very similar in most cities. Here in Lima, Peru we protest against the inadequate and excessive use of motorized vehicles and demand respect for cyclists from drivers; to the state to promote bicycle as a means of transportation and for a bike-friendly city; and to inform the population about traffic culture and importance of personal action to reduce environmental pollution by encouraging bicycle use.
Nudity is a very interesting and effective form of protest – presenting our body as a chassis which shares the streets with vehicles – ensuring that we will be seen as an opposite to cars, which doesn’t normally happen when we are on the road. Nudity also draws attention to the population and the media, and shows our message to the rest of the world. In Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2008 police arrested participants of the WNBR and started violent actions against the riders, and put a stop to the ride. The media showed these events, and for a while, the society was in dispute about why nudity is wrong and how the position of the cyclist in the city obligates them to protest.
This protest is clothing-optional – a “Bare As You Dare” dress code – which means that aside from nudity, many people also wear costumes, body paint, as well as bring banners to express their feelings. The important point is to make the event as a creative and unusual as possible in order to call attention to the population.
Some of you must be asking now, what about the police? Well, that is a different issue in each city. Mexico City had no problem with police who supports the ride because the nudity was their way to protest. In London in 2008, the police stopped the ride at one point, but after some discussions they allowed the ride to finish. In Lima, the first WNBR was something very improvised (with 15 riders, and just 2 naked), and the district security and the police stopped it. However, after some questions at the police station including “is it true that you were totally naked”, which I answered, “no it isn’t, I had helmet, socks and shoes”, we were released. In years since, Lima has had many more riders and the police now support us. So what’s the secret? It’s the same as many cities: big number of riders and media attention. In Sao Paulo in 2009, the secret was to get naked just after fooling the police by dispersing and later joining at a pre-established point.
If you want to participate or organise a WNBR in your city there is lots of information on the Internet: almost all the rides are listed on the WNBR page (in Spanish at Ciclonudista.net), and this site includes documentary “Indecent Exposure to Cars” by Conrad Schmidt and documentary of the WNRB in London by High Altitude Films.
So pay attention to the WNBR’s happening this year in many cities and countries across North America and Europe, as well as the southern hemisphere rides which take place in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Peru.
Octavio Zegarra Lazarte