World Naked Bike Day in NYC

Ok, were a little more modest then the crunchy town of Portland Oregon who recently celebrated World Naked Bike Day with over 5,000 participants.

3625727846_58fab5f91c_o(picture from Jonathan Maus posted at flickr and his blog:

Meanwhile I got a report from NYC’s naked ride from bikeblog reader and WNBR participant, Joe Sharkey:

Arriving at the starting point in the Chelsea about 5:30, apparent riders were heavily outnumbered by media, photographers, and onlookers. The ride did not get started until after 6:30, so there was plenty of time for reporters to photograph people having body paint applied and ask them about why they were doing the ride. Me and my buddies got tired of standing around in our underpants waiting to roll, as it was cold and slightly raining, so we did a few warm up laps around the park where the ride met at the far end of West 23rd street. Most of the riders were nearly naked as opposed to naked at the start of the ride. Most of the riders were also men. Only two women bared their breasts, of about 6 women total riding, and there were a dozen or so riders tagging along who were much more clothed. About 40 riders in total. 25 daring to bare.

Going up W. 23rd to 8th avenue, we got what seemed to be a generally warm reception from bystanders and passing traffic. We only took up 1 sometimes 2 lanes, but the traffic seemed to have difficulty passing us by at a normal speed for some reason. I was delighted to see a young dude on a bmx boldly baring shortly after we started up 8th ave, and his energy was definitely inspiring. There were 2 or 3 other truly naked riders at that point. We used 8th ave as an opportunity to refine our chants: “Burn fat! Not oil!” “More bikes! Less clothes!” and the ever-popular “Less gas! More ass!” Coincidentally, it seems these chants also spontaneously occured in other rides elsewhere. In my post ride media review, I heard “Burn fat! Not oil!” on a vid from Boulder Colorado’s ride, and Time Out Chicago covered thier ride with the “Less gas! More ass!” headline.

There were no problems and lots of fun up 8th to Columbus Circle. In fact, except for a few park rangers at the start, absolutely no police presence or response. This emboldened us, so after a few laps around and a brief pause in the circle, most of us de-briefed fully in front of all the tourists, and rolled out to go down Broadway to Union Square. The new “bike friendly” layout of Broadway proved too narrow to accomodate the wideness of our ride, but it was fun and increasingly crowded as we approached time square. People continued to be largely supportive and excited.

Then, I think around 47th street, our route plan went awry as they had closed off Times square to pedestrians only. The best video footage of the naked ride, no doubt, is from the NYPD times square tower survellience system which decended upon our arrival for a better angle. At that point, about 4 or 5 police officers, mostly plainclothes, started yelling at us to put our clothes back on. All the riders complied, but after slipping my panties back on, cops were still threatening me with three days in jail instead of responding to my inquiries about how much more clothing I had to put on, so at that point I encouraged the ride to alter its route before more police arrived. I heard another rider say he heard a cop on the phone reporting our demand of “Less gas, more ass” to HQ. We went with the only moving traffic and headed westward. We had picked up an unmarked cop car and one of those boxy meter-maid interceptor vehicles.

We circled back north and than east, losing the police car as we trickled through. At one point the interceptor did cork for us, and it always makes me happy to see the police actually interested in our saftey. The broadway confrontation had eliminated the less hardcore riders, so we were down to about 25, and we did indeed cork and run some reds, not much of a problem for that size of ride. We did lose the interceptor as well when we took 5th southbound to get back on Broadway near the Flatiron. It was still a fun ride, but we were no longer naked, and the thrill and liberation of the full nudity certainly made scantily clad less exciting. Approaching union square, the onlookers continued to enjoy our chants and our skin, “Love your body! Ride your bike!”, we went halfway around the square and went east on 15th to another, empty park where we “debriefed” on the ride by checking in who we had lost along the way. One of the organizers had people sign in so we could keep tabs if anyone did get NYPD’d in a bad way…to my knowledge our quick exit from the crackdown did spare us any tickets or arrests. Rain and darkness led us to disperse, some to a local bar, others to wherever, back to normalcy unfortunately.

All said and done a pretty good group ride for Manhattan, clothed or not. Definitely something for the tourists to remember fondly or with disgust. Children certainly were exposed to the fact that, beneath our clothing, we all have pretty much the same bodies. I don’t think anyone was scarred for life. I can’t wait until next year. The real question is whether the police will continue to be oblivious/overreactive, or will they actually attempt to control in a way that works? In boulder, bike-riding cops accompanied the ride and made sure everyone kept the minimal genital coverage. Less naked equals less fun, but more sensible policing equals more respect for law. I hope you can do your part to make next year’s ride many times larger.

More Ass, less gas,

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