Did Portland really invent the Naked Bike Ride, or is it one of those things like “Keep Portland Weird” that we stole from some other city and now try to take credit for?
What, after all, could be more Portland than a flamboyant mantle of enforced quirkiness wrapped around a smug core of ill-defined anti-establishment sentiment? (If that sounds harsh, you definitely don’t want to hear what I think of the Rose Parade.)
But no, Hypo; the World Naked Bike Ride (unlike the World Series) is actually a worldwide event. Portland got in on the ground floor—we participated, along with 27 other cities, in the first WNBR in 2004.
The credit for inventing it belongs to Conrad Schmidt, a Vancouver activist and filmmaker who’s also famous as the founder of the anti-consumerist Work Less Party. (I need hardly mention we’re talking about Vancouver, B.C., not Vancouver, Wash.)
Activist groups in various cities (including Seattle) had staged naked rides before 2004, but never as an internationally coordinated festival of butt rash. Today, the event spans 70 cities in 20 nations.
WNBR’s stated purpose is to “deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world,” but saying that’s why people do it is like saying people go to Burning Man to model new concepts in pharmaceutically enhanced, clothing-optional municipal governance. (Also, it’s the same people.) Folks pretty clearly do it for the lulz; any world-saving that may transpire is incidental.
And that’s fine—my objections aren’t to cycling or nudity, but to organized events in general. That’s why I also want to ban Providence Bridge Pedal, the Hood to Coast Relay, and, if possible, Christmas. And puppies. Vote for me!
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