After years of growth, organizers of tomorrow’s Naked Bike Ride hope for smaller crowd

The 2012 ride, with live music and international media correspondents at the start location, was one of the biggest ever. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“We are trying to remind folks that this isn’t Bridge Pedal.”

– WNBR organizer

After growing into Portland’s biggest free bike event, the World Naked Bike Ride wants to get back to its roots. Organizers of this year’s edition — which will embark from Peninsula Park Saturday night — say they want the ride to evolve from a massive party to a more manageable protest.

Started with humble intentions in 2004 as part of a global protest against fossil fuels, Portland’s first WNBR had less than 200 participants. Four years later it grew to 2,000. Then it was around 7,000 in 2010 before hitting a peak of over 10,000 riders in 2014.

But the novelty of growing the event and reveling in its size and influence has worn off for many of its fans and organizers. While it was exhilarating for advocates to see so many people riding bikes and they worked hard to stoke interest and attention on the event, there were also downsides.

This year it will feel different. “It’s going to be much more back-to-the-roots,” one of the organizers told me in an interview Thursday.

“For so many years the ride was getting bigger and bigger and people outside the core bike community were showing up. That was really exciting, but this year we are trying to remind folks that this isn’t Bridge Pedal [a large annual organized ride with corporate sponsors]… This is a protest,” they said.

Organizers aren’t promoting the ride as aggressively as they used to. To dilute interest and dampen attendance at tomorrow’s ride, they’ve encouraged other naked rides throughout this year’s Pedalpalooza.

Don’t get it wrong: Seeing a lot of newbies and new faces on the ride is a great thing, but what organizers are getting at is that in recent years the WNBR became a major destination event with hundreds of people driving cars to the venue. “I get a lot of emails from people asking where to park their cars,” they said. “The last thing WNBR needs to do is flood a neighborhood with a bunch of parked cars. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

In addition to a demonstration against oil dependency and fossil fuels, the ride is also about body positivity. But as WNBR has grown, many complaints have surfaced from people who don’t feel safe on the ride. The vulnerability of bicycling is one thing, but being naked around thousands of strangers adds another layer which can be very unwelcome and even unsafe for some people.

Organizers of the ride are putting a lot more energy into rider safety this year. Instead of selling merchandise, live music and having 100s of porta-potties at the start location, they’re urging folks to plan ahead and be more self-sufficient. That doesn’t mean you’ll be left hanging. There is more focus this year on making sure there are ample course marshalls, medics, and mechanics along the route in case anyone needs help.

WNBR organizers know they can’t control what happens Saturday night; but there are forces beyond their control that could lead to a smaller turnout. Many people are rightfully concerned about the ongoing spread of Covid, the heat could keep people away, as could fear of interactions with Portland police or aggressive car users (there’s been an uptick in people driving through group rides this summer). Then there’s the looming monkeypox virus — which is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in close quarters

“There’s a lot of reasons having a smaller ride is probably to the benefit of the community,” the organizer said.


Please keep all this in mind as you make your plans. For more information, read the WNBR FAQ. And don’t forget the two afterparties! On the ride, follow Diablo and his Tiki Bike to one of them. For the other party, check out the details and follow PopCartPDX on IG.

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Racer X
Racer X
2 months ago

So from now on, I guess, its ride naked every day!

World Naked Bike Commute…contact your commute trip reduction (CTR) coordinators at your employer’s HR department…

Perhaps Hotels.com or a hotelier will pick up and market the event for 2023…

PS. Just ‘ride safe and solo’ tonight and no skin to skin contact this year, if you know what I mean.

patrick cashman
2 months ago

Fun. I’ve been submitting public records requests for PPBs and P&R for the last two years because I figured they never learn. And both came back with “Never heard of it”. I wonder if the hourly employee who put in the fix for you guys know he broke our laws.
You’re benefitting from public employees ignoring our laws and giving this event singular unique privilege that no other protest enjoys. Because the City of Portland panders to this group of protestors for some secret reason known but to them. But since this is Portland we should probably start with skin color and assumed political party. White progs claiming special treatment for their white prog frat buds are usually the problem. But if corruption and denying equal protection of our laws to your neighbors is your thing, enjoy your privilege! It’s your world, the rest of us peons simply live in it.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
2 months ago

It is pretty amazing how laws only apply to those groups the City and DA deems it disagrees with. Constitutional protection (and laws in general) should apply to all equally, not just your favorite.

John
John
1 month ago

Could you elaborate on what in the world any of this means? It sounds like you may have commented on the wrong article, I can’t make heads or tails out of any of this.

Who is privileged here, what is the alleged benefit?

Dan
Dan
1 month ago
Reply to  John

I seem to recall Mr Cashman complaining about the WNBR in years past as well. I think he’s concerned that naked people on bikes are somehow getting favorable treatment from the city. This is, of course, ridiculous. Anyone who’s tried to bike around town naked can attest to that.

patrick cashman
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Probably best to start with the last time this happened; 2019. — https://bikeportland.org/2019/05/29/what-does-patrick-cashman-have-against-the-world-naked-bike-ride-300160
and don’t skip the comments, they’re the bacon bits on the salad.

John
John
1 month ago

This was fascinating, thanks. Now there is a person who doesn’t like people riding bikes and having fun.

Joseph E
1 month ago
Reply to  John
Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 month ago

It’s simply a fun bike ride to promote alternative transportation, visibility for people on bikes, and body positivity. Enjoy it or don’t. Everyone’s welcome. No special group or membership card or special privilege is required. All shapes, sizes, orientations, beliefs, colors, and socioeconomic backgrounds will be on this ride. It’s for all of us, and even if you don’t believe it, you are welcome too

Patrick Cashman
Patrick Cashman
1 month ago

Looks like this year the organizers of the WNBR couldn’t be bothered to even apply for a permit for use of the Park. Simply selfish and entitled behavior; “rules are for other people”.

From: Stone III, Clarence <Clarence.Stone@portlandoregon.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2022 8:19 AM
To: Pak, Soo <Soo.Pak@portlandoregon.gov>; Hosley, Jarrell <Jarrell.Hosley@portlandoregon.gov>;
Parks – Security Leadership Team <ParksSecLedTeam@portlandoregon.gov>
Cc: Parks – Customer Service Center Leads <ParksCSCenterLeads@portlandoregon.gov>; Paul, Dylan
<Dylan.Paul@portlandoregon.gov>; Colett, Tom <Tom.Colett@portlandoregon.gov>
Subject: World Naked Bike Ride
Good morning All,
I was watching the news last night and it was announced that the World Naked Bike Race is planning to utilize Peninsula Park as their starting location on July 30th. The CSC has not received any communication from the organizers regarding this event. Also, SFFA has a concert planned in the park on the same day.
I cannot find a website for the event but here is the link to the new article World Naked Bike Ride 2022 start point announced in North Portland | KATU
Feel free to email me with any questions. That is frequently the easiest way to reach me. Or call me directly at the phone number below.
Regards,
Clarence Stone III (he/him/his) Why do I list my pronouns?
Coordinator I -Public Events Permit | Customer Service Center