© 2016 By Carl Larson

Many images courtesy of bikeportland.org. Thanks Jonathan!

World Naked Bike Ride

 
event logistics, government relations

Okay. Let's get a few things out of the way:

  • I'm not some weirdo nudist guy. I never thought I'd get so involved in this thing.

  • The Oregon constitution protects nudity as a form of free speech, so it's totally legal as a form of protest.

  • The ride is a protest against oil dependance, cyclist vulnerability, and body shaming.

  • The majority of participants don't wear a stitch but the motto is "bare as you dare." No pressure.

  • Yes. Portland really did have over 10,000 people at the 2015 ride.

  • This isn't "a Portland thing." The event started in Vancouver and now happens worldwide.

  • It's surprisingly comfortable to ride a bike naked.

 

Portland Police probably didn't even notice the city's first World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) but, by 2008, what started as a fun midnight ride with less than 100 people had grown to over 2,000 and things were getting out of hand. Nightclubbers emptied into the streets to spectate, fights broke out, tires were slashed, bikes were run over, and the police bureau was taken completely by surprise.

 

Portland Police had already quashed monthly "Critical Mass" rides and it was clear that unless something changed about the WNBR, the ride would suffer the same fate. This realization resulted in the weirdest City Hall meeting I've ever attended and, more importantly, many years of safe, major-incident-free WNBRs. A couple Pedalpalooza organizers and I told the mayor and the police that the ride was unstoppable but, as long as they didn't try to shut it down, we would try to coordinate scheduling and route planning with them.

 

It worked. From 2009 onward, I've worked with Police traffic division, the Parks department, and the mayor's office to negotiate safe, fun, expedient routes for the ride. What began as a hassle for the police and the city has become a beloved almost-mainstream event. Police officers from other municipalities volunteer to help out, people fly in from other states to go on the ride, and start-point neighbors plan front yard barbecues.

 

In 2013, as part of their "art of the bicycle" show, the Portland Art Museum hosted the WNBR start point right in their front yard! While negotiating this collaboration, I jokingly suggested they charge $1 per article of clothing for museum admission. I was shocked when they did just that. Even more surprising: most people got in free.