Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Participating in the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) in London

We arrived a bit late for the WNBR ride. As we neared the Statue of Achillies in Hyde Park we could see the procession had already begun. The multitudes of naked cyclists we were hoping to join were surrounded by a wall of clothed spectators. Arriving late, we had to get ourselves unclothed and through the clothed crowd to join the procession. That wasn't the start I had hoped for. Oh well, I stripped off down to just my cycle shorts and we pushed through the crowd. Not everyone in the procession was totally naked so this was a reasonable compromise.

(more pictures available from http://www.nurburgring.org.uk/benlovejoy/temp/lnbr/ )

We cycled on for about half a mile to get the measure of the event. It seemed pretty well supported with many naked people pedalling along. I pulled over to the middle of the road and quickly pulled off my cycling shorts and stashed them in my pannier. I didn't think too much about the fact that I was standing stark naked in the middle of London on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I quickly got on my bike and joined the others. I have never been naked in public before and was not too surprised to realise it was not a big deal.

The protest, as most will know, is loosely described as a protest against indecent exposure to CO2 but it was a protest against car culture in general and a celebration of cycling.

I had been concerned that the whole thing would be very exhibitionist and quite crude and was surprised to realise it wasn't like that at all. A couple of folks were a little exhibitionist but really not in an unpleasant way.

We went by the Houses of Parliment, Big Ben, past open top London buses full of some perplexed but happy tourists, past the London Eye where we stopped for photos and right along Oxford Street from where the shoppers had left the shops to line the route at least 3 people deep along the length of the road.

I think I expected riding naked to be sort of liberating but I didn't come away feeling like that. I guess my biggest realisation from the afternoon was that cycling naked is a pretty good way to protest. I didn't see any hint of violence. The crowd was amazingly supportive and entertained by the whole event. I didn't see anyone annoyed by the fact that we had held up the traffic in central London for over an hour. I heard one young man on his mobile phone talking to his mate, I heard him say, "...nah, you don't understand there are THOUSANDS of NAKED PEOPLE...". It's quite nice to do a small thing that shocks that generation, who often seem otherwise unshockable.

The Police too were excellent. They took to their bikes and rode along with us, all of them very good natured and sporting and perhaps even enjoying themselves.

We ended out trip back at Marble Arch near Hyde Park. It had been a bit chilly over the last stretch of the route and I'd had enough of being naked in public for one day so I was happy to get my shirt on, and, of course my cycling shorts!

As a way to protest, showing up and taking in the sites of London naked is not a bad way to go. I'm not sure the event got the media coverage it could have done, which is a shame, though I am quite glad not to have been on the telly this time.


At 9:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What, no photos?


At 1:01 am, Blogger litsl said...

Be careful what you wish for!


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