Thousands of people stripped down to celebrate Portland’s 13th Annual World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday.
Cyclists rolled through rain-free, 80-degree Portland neighborhoods from Mount Scott Park. Spectators crowded the streets of southeast Portland as cars came to an hour-long stall to bare witness to the hordes of nude riders.
“I think people are here for the cause of uniting for something big,” said Jason Dictson, a participant in this year’s ride. “It has grown so big, but it still brings to light what it is for.”
There is more to the ride than getting naked and holding the promise to “Keep Portland Weird.” The worldwide event started in 2004 as an offshoot from Critical Mass, a protest ride advocating bike safety that started in 1992 in San Francisco and gained popularity worldwide.
The World Naked Bike Ride is a protest against fossil fuel dependency, while advocating for bike safety and body positivity.
As the protest grows larger each year, there are more reasons why people participate, including community building, supporting human-powered transport, and desexualizing the naked body.
Many participants believe the focus has shifted from bike safety to body positivity.
Davis Henely, a first-time participant and volunteer, had lost 125 pounds prior to this year’s ride. Henely said he has experienced body shaming far too many times. Events like this give him hope that others won’t have to go through that experience.
“We treat the body as a sexual entity,” Henely said. “It is objectified as a sexual entity, when it is just a body.”
Steve and Crystal Bosbach, volunteers, have both participated three times in Austin, Texas, and this year’s event is their third in Portland.
Steve thinks the ride is more of a statement than a protest.
“A protest sounds like you’re against,” Steve said. “We don’t have a negative statement ‘against’ something, but rather positive ‘for’ body acceptance and ‘for’ transportation by bicycle.”
“And how vulnerable we are,” Crystal added. “We are naked. Any bicyclist is basically naked against a car.”
Safety is the top concern of the event’s organizers and the Portland Police Bureau.
Every year, the route remains a secret until the event to minimize disruptions from spectators. Officers blocked traffic to ensure a clear route and a smooth ride. They were also available at every major intersection.
“At a bare minimum, the Portland Police Bureau recommends that riders at least wear a helmet and shoes to avoid any potential injuries,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said in a statement.
The legality of public nudity is another concern. Public nudity is protected under the Oregon Constitution as a form of protest. It is a crime if the person intends to commit a sexual act or arouse sexual desire.
“Riding naked is the freest feeling you could ever have,” Crystal said.
As one of more than 300 events in Pedalpalooza, a three-week celebration of Portland’s bike culture, the World Naked Bike Ride attracts the most participants. World Naked Bike Rides take place in more than 70 cities and 20 countries.