WNBR Portland 2014
Steve and Crystal Bosbach, Siskiyou Velo
World Naked Bike Ride Portland is over and it was a very enjoyable event. Weather cooperated with relatively warm temps for Portland, and no rain occurred to dampen spirits. As we neared our start location, more and more cyclists were encountered, some already in body paint, costume or nothing at all, boldly pedaling down the road full Monty.
At the park, we checked in at the volunteer booth, as I had volunteered as a ride along mechanic. Crystal volunteered as a rolling medic with first aid kit, and thankfully never needed it.
Lots of town folk spectators were lining the streets as we exited the Normandale Park. Some looked incredulous, others applauded and shouted approval. There were NO jeers or cat calls at all. The ride is being labeled as a tradition in Portland now, so it’s future looks secure.
We meet a wheelchair bound cyclist who said he had ridden the ride last year as volunteer security, but was now in a wheelchair. This wasn’t keeping him out of the ride, however, and he was again volunteering as security.
We pass through the residential area and start to get into the commercial zone, and I see three gals at a food trailer, all nude as jay birds, nonchalantly ordering something to eat, like this happens all the time in Portland.
We come around a corner where scattered bystanders are watching the throng of cyclists go by. A lone woman is standing on the sidewalk, next to her pile of clothes, nude, applauding as we pass.
Flying down the last big hill to the finish point, a tall, thin cyclist sits up on his bike and throws his arms wide in exuberance, sailing down hill naked and free!
I do think the ride has lost it’s protest base and now succumbed to the party scene. Maybe it was always mostly the party scene. This is however, still useful as a social experiment to show the natural appropriateness of the human body, but it no longer carries the serious political weight in Portland that it does in other cities and countries. WNBR is important for what doesn’t happen, as much as for what does happen. There were no assaults or thefts reported associated with the ride. Minor scrapes are taken care of and mechanical problems are resolved by volunteers. WNBR is one of those events where people begin to feel human again, fully in their bodies, and unashamed of who they are. Accepting themselves, they begin to see it’s easier to accept others where they are, no matter what bike, wheelchair or car they might be riding. People who have ridden WNBR say it’s liberating. I would say it is that and more.