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The World Naked Bike Ride 2014 Portland Oregon

On Saturday, June 7, 2014, thousands of nude bikers took to the streets of Portland for the World Naked Bike Ride. The World Naked Bike Ride began in 2004, when Portland participated along with 27 other cities. Credit goes to Vancouver based activist and filmmaker Conrad Schmidt.

Smith is famous for founding Canada’s Work Less party which advocates a 32 hour work week, an increase in the minimum wage, and a greater sense of community with the promotion of social activities. In 2003, Smith staged a naked protest against war in which protesters formed a large peace symbol in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This event was the inspiration for the first World Naked Bike Ride in 2004.

Prior to 2004 there were several organized naked bike rides.  Freikörperkultur is a movement in Germany that endorses nudity as a natural approach to positive body image and free expression. Freikörperkultur in Germany, Ciclonudista in Spain, and The Fremont Riders in Seattle, had all organized successful naked rides prior to the World Naked Bike Ride.

Nude protests attempt to use nudity to draw attention to a cause that is not necessarily related to the nudity itself. While the World Naked Bike Ride is a chance for riders to feel liberated by shedding their clothes, its stated purpose is to encourage people to be less dependent on pollution-based transportation and more aware of bike pedestrian safety. The riders of the event use their relatively anonymous participation to freely support the cause, as identifying a single naked person in a sea of nakedness is a surprisingly difficult task.

Attitudes toward nudity vary from culture to culture. Taboos against nudity typically stem from the desire to cover sexual reproductive organs either for the purpose of remaining sacred or imposing shame on acts of copulation. However, on a potentially more important note, clothing has often symbolized power or contained within it the indication of shared norms. This has created a sense that clothing is the practice of the civilized. Thus making nudity an indication of a more primitive person.

A Night in the Life of Naked Bike Riding

At approximately 7:00 pm on June 7, 2014,  revelry can be heard around 55th and and Halsey. Rounding the corner of that last climb to Normandale Park is something you don’t see every day. Not just thousands of naked humans but thousands of naked humans genuinely enjoying themselves. Music can be heard coming from multiple speakers on different devices. It ranges from Top 40 hits to massage parlor trance. The first thing noticedis not the dangling penises, the floppingbreasts or the bouncing butts. The first thing you notice is far more strange.

People with clothes on. Thousands of people with one thing in common and a few clothed outsiders. Police officers, security guards, random and bewildered passers-by — these are the strange folk around these parts. In any other situation these folks might seem to be the gatekeepers, the keepers of the peace. As if to say, “Let the hedonists have their fun, but watch them carefully and sweep it up in the end.” This isn’t the aura of the World Naked Bike Ride. Normandale Park on June 7, 2014 is a place owned and dominated by the liberated. Liberated in this case from their clothes, and therefore their modesty.  Perhaps Portland’s finest should be liberated from their uniforms? Maybe they will send a few of their best men in the buff for 2015.

The park is populated with diversity. Some are more dressed but more cleverly adorned while others prefer to go as naturally as possible. Mostly what everyone shares in common are smiles and laughter.  Most people are sitting in groups chit-chatting with their bikes nearby like a loved one or family pet.The party stretches from baseball field to baseball field. There are a few bike stands for last minute repairs on the wheels before the ride.

There is no real beginning. The buzz just rises.One might find oneself enjoying a picnic in the park and then without warning be waiting in a very long, and I mean very long, line to begin the ride. Onlookers draped in cloth generally consisting of khaki pants, polo shirts, white socks and  new balance shoes have gathered at the starting point of the ride. They take pictures like that isn’t weird. And it isn’t.

It’s cold and the breeze reminds you why mankind donned clothes in the first place. The line begins to move and the sight of naked bikers reminds you how massive this event really is. There is the skateboarder with the puppy in his backpack, the man providing joy bubbles to everyone directly behind, and the man who towers over everyone in his multilevel bike. How does he get up there?

Around every bend and turn there are people outside the crowd. Watching. One might expect happenstance wanderers: the man taking a stroll to New Seasons to pick up some kale and kombucha who is unknowingly subjected to an endless bike train of flesh. Of course, this scenario did indeed occur, but the striking thing about the naked bike ride is that people watching love it. They treat it like a spectator sport.

For the participants, the ride is a combination of good cause, liberation, and exhibition. However, for the spectators, the event is about self love, living in a community that is tolerant of human expression and supporting the ongoing to development of healthy commuting.  Cheering can be heard from the mother of four who brought her kids out to show them a healthy celebration of the human body; the 80 year old couple that appear to be delighted by the energy and buzz of the movement; and the teenagers that yearn to experience something new, original, and progressive shout with approval.

 

The ride is not a loop but rather a trek to the finish. The ride finish line is salom down Mississippi avenue to a gathering point between N Knott St. and N Russell St. The setting is industrial and people have begun to gather in a small clearing and the crisp coldness of the night air begins to creep back into the skin.  The feel is part Mardi-Gras and part Burning Man. Groups reunite, begin to chat, and find spots to sit and recoup. A common dilemma is moving on from this spot and the continuously dropping temperature.The next party might seem enticing but that means the end of nakedness. Some are ready; others are not.

All good things must come to an end. The clothes must return to cover the increasingly cold flesh. The moment might be over but the memory will remain. Ultimately, our bodies are our own, and for this moment we celebrate them, — that is something everyone who participated will remember and hold dear.

That’s What it is, But What is it for?

One important aspect of the World Naked Bike Ride is the fact that the entire event is man powered.  A pre-ride message was sent to participants urging them to commute via bike to the starting point, as driving would defeat the purpose.  Reducing our dependency on foreign oil — and oil in general — is the message behind the ride.

The United States is responsible for nearly twenty-five percent of oil consumption in the world. As reported here,  approximately forty percent of our oil is imported. The imports are on the decline thanks to new domestic fuel options and the United States’ improved standard for fuel economy.  The majority of the improvement for fuel economy has come from the demand for car companies to provide vehicles with better gas mileage. However, a small part of that is the increased emphasis on improved public transportation infrastructure, sustainability, and the focus on encouraging citizens to live a healthy, physically-active lifestyle.

The Race to Thirty-Five Percent

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that we will need to continue to import 35-40% of our oil for the foreseeable future. The movement toward encouraging consumers to buy cars with higher gas mileage, creating denser and smaller economies, and a focus on our public transport systems will be paramount to moving closer to the 35% number.

But there is something else we can do. Remember Conrad Schmidt, the original leader of the World Naked Bike Ride Movement and founder of the Work Less Party? The Work Less party advocates the promotion of colloquial cultural activities.  A walk in the park, a bike ride with a friend, or a hike in the Gorge doesn’t consume any resources. Encouraging a healthy, low-emissions lifestyle will help us get closer to 35% and away from 40%. Furthermore, the bonds created when people get together and share are sustainable bonds.  Getting to know your neighbor is creating more opportunities to actively participate in non-consumingnon-oil-consuming activities. Certainly more sustainable than the dopamine injection of let’s say, following Britney Spears’ twitter account.

How Do We Stack Up?

Urbanites of the United States drove two and half times more than that of their european counterparts. If Americans aged 10-64 were to bicycle instead of drive, the demand for gasoline would be reduced by 48 billion gallons.

You want a staggering fact? Five percent of households within the income bracket between $20,000-$39,999 are without a motor vehicle. It costs approximately 100,000 to buy and drive a F-250 over a period of five years. It costs approximately three hundred and eight dollars per year to maintain a bicycle. Let’s assume you spent $1,000 dollars on a very nice bike. The average total spent is $2,540.00.

$100,000.00 <?> $2,540.00

This is the United States poverty line:

 

 

Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,060 for each additional person.
1 $11,670
2 15,730
3 19,790
4 23,850
5 27,910
6 31,970
7 36,030
8 40,090

 

Cars are in our blood. Detroit was once a symbol of power and strength. They created the beauty of might, intelligence, and hard diligent work.  A red convertible means something bigger for Americans. It means freedom, it means success, it means our opportunities were created, made and converted. However, there is clearly an opportunity to reduce waste in our oil consumption. Traffic congestion accounts for a significant amount of wasted oil.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has set a goal of a quarter of all trips be made by bicycle by year two thousand and thirty. They approximate that cycling in Portland has increased by 322% percent since 1991.

This study conducted by Oliver Smith indicates that there is a strong correlation between cycling and walking to your job and your overall commute happiness.

Getting to 35% is a new goal we can be proud of. We can be known for our might, intelligence and hard diligent work again. We can prove that we are willing and able to adapt to our ever changing challenges. An increased focus on sustainable commuting is healthier both for the environment and it’s inhabitants.

Putting butts on bicycles seats results in cleaner air, cleaner water, and a healthier environment.  Cyclists themselves are exposed to less pollution than bus and car commuters. In addition to avoiding environmental harms, cyclists are more likely to exhibit cardiovascular fitness and health and therefore tend to be healthier overall and live longer.

Embracing the Naked Truths

The World’s Naked Bike Ride is an event that is complex in its purpose and design On one hand the event exists for people to be, well… naked. In the moment, that is what you feel and that is how you experience it. On the other hand, the event has a history and there are people who have put a tremendous effort into its creation to accomplish the goal of the message. It may seem modest but the message has been tremendously successful. The World Naked Bike Ride is a tremendously popular event that has spread to over fifty cities. While the connection between nudity and oil independence may prima facie seem odd, it’s marriage has been implemented with precision.

In the era of the new normal the connection makes perfect sense.  Perhaps in order to adapt to the new challenges that call into question our comforting and time tested strategies, we will need to shed our barriers and be open to new solutions. These solutions can be found in our communities, in our neighbors, and in our culture habits. The Naked Bike Ride provides exactly that.

 

 

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