Gross Archive

The World Naked Bike Ride Experience

I had not heard of the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) until a couple of weeks before this year's events in June when I accidently came across the websites while doing research with Google for my article writing for SexTingles.
I have been a naturist for many years. The one thing about us British that niggles me is the ambivalent nature we have generally about sex. It means that, despite the modern day openness in the media, people are still usually very reserved about their own sex lives. This is mixed with an apparently insatiable desire to hear about other people's sex lives; particularly those of celebrities. There is a continual hypocritical outcry about the sexual behaviour of celebrities and politicians plastered across the news media and tut-tutted at by all and sundry although most of those doing the tut-tutting are 'carrying on' in much the same way.
So what has all this to do with the WNBR? Well first of all British Naturists are some of the nicest people there are, but they are also some of the most sexually confused/scared/hypocritical. Society being what it is has always been very wary of the idea and practice of naturism - because the mere state of being naked with other human beings has sexual connotations. Naturists have responded by denying any sexual aspect in their social nakedness. It is of course true that for most people sexy clothing can be even more of a turn-on than full nakedness and if you are habitually naked among other people you become used to the sight of naked bodies and peoples' genitals. However, in my opinion, if one naturist is attracted to another, their nakedness can and should be a 'turn-on'.
This sets the stage for the WNBR. Non-naturists braving public nakedness for the 'cause'; naturists many in denial about the possible sexual nature of nakedness and the non-naturist public titilated by the thought and sight of nakedness and driven by a hypocritical convention to love and condemn, at the same time, public nakedness and sexuality.
Against this background the WNBR is first and foremost a light-hearted event to present a serious protest against the dependency on fossil fuels, the dangers of overuse of cars both to the environment and to cyclists, and the benefit of cycling to people and the environment. Rides are run throughout the world over the same few days in June. The rides are billed as naked (though there is no insistence on participants being fully naked) to draw attention to the vulnerability of the human body to pollution and cars - and of course to attract the attention of the public.
As usual with these events the Brighton Group discussed arrangements with the local police who were helpful and did not see any problem with riders being naked. However, just days before the event the Assistant Chief Constable intervened and pronounced that riders would be arrested if they, in his words, "exposed their 'rude bits'". Apart from the dubious legality of this directive (perhaps the subject of another article) does this (panic?) act not show the confusion society has about morality, sexuality and nakedness! Was it his own opinion that he was imposing, was it the result of pressure from some very influential person or people, did he really believe that the general public would really be significantly offended and up in arms over the nakedness? The organisers advised partipants to use imaginative ideas to cover up - exactly what was not clear. Would bare buttocks and breasts be OK?
When the day arrived my nervousness intensified. Not because I would be (nearly) naked but because I was anxious about the public's reaction, especially as I had a panel on the bike declaring being sponsored by SexTingles and supporting both WNBR and the Outsiders Club. Would they be offended; would they laugh at us or would they be supportive? Would the other riders be uncomfortable with my sponsorship (with its sexual connections)?
When I arrived at the Level, preparations were already underway with people doing body painting promoting the WNBR messages. I was pleased to see there was an even number of men and women (also one or two children with their parents and a dog in a bike trailer!). One or two people (men) were fully naked there were a lot of naked buttocks and breasts. More and more people arrived; the press arrived and quite few people gave interviews including myself. Then suddenly the police arrived in cars and a police van ... how were they going to react?
In the event, the police were friendly. They chatted to people and slowly and quietly talked to those who were obviously intending to go on the ride fully naked, telling them they should cover up their genitals. Mine were covered with an amusing 'elephant' thong!
At last the ride got underway and around 160 riders left the park area and with the help of the police who directed at traffic lights and junctions we travelled down the Steine to the the Brighton Palace Pier and then along the seafront to Hove. The public reaction seemed mixed with amusement and bemusement. Quite a few cheered us on our way. At the Statue of Peace we waited for the stragglers to catch up. Then we turned north into the shopping areas and cycled along Western Road and past Churchill Square. It was in this area that we past the most people. Again most were supportive. A few older people ignored us or turned away and looked uncomfortable, but no-one showed any signs of being really upset.
The ride then took us east through Kemptown and then finally back down to the sea at the Brighton Naturist Beach. There people gathered to take a rest and have some lunch. A few of the riders then went back into Brighton to catch a train up to London to take part in the London ride - which actually did have fully naked riders!
There were only two instances of note. At one point the police held up traffic to let us through but at the head of the queue was a bus. The bus driver was so annoyed at being held up he moved forward and used the bus to push the policeman out of the way - he got a good talking to! One of the riders arrived at the finish in the police van; but he had not been arrested, in fact he had had a puncture and the police gave him a lift!
Since the event I have read a few responses from the public, some of whom maintain it must have been an illegal act as it "destroyed the Queen's Peace" others applauding it and yet others arguing the case for cycling and cars and the use of the roads. Hopefully the ride did get people thinking about the issues, although to my mind the problems and cures are not as simple as such a protest tends to suggest.
So, an event that I had been anxious about turned out to be great fun and all the people taking part were very friendly. I took part to help save the World and would not have missed it for the World!

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