If I am not mistaken it was a beautiful day in June of 2010 when I witnessed for the very first time the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) in action. I was leaving the Rideau Mall in downtown Ottawa and noticed what appeared to be a group of naked people on bikes who were waiting for the traffic light to turn green.
I wondered if I was hallucinating and quietly asked myself if these folks were really naked. I allowed my eyes to get a closer look by focusing onto a bike seat: ”Yep, that is indeed a penis” I told myself.
The light turned green and off they went chanting slogans like ”more ass, less gas”! I put two and two together and concluded that it was the WNBR. I couldn’t help but think how awesome and liberating it must be to participate in such a ride.
For those who do not know what the World Naked Bike Ride is, or what exactly it is protesting, I invite you to visit the official website of the WNBR by clicking here.
I had often read or heard about the World Naked Bike Ride from various media, but I had never participated in one. Jade Sambrook was now determined to do so! Unfortunately though, the following year the Ottawa Police warned that anybody not wearing underwear would be arrested for public nudity. This effectively ruined my motivation to participate.
My first opportunity to participate in a WNBR happened the following year in Montreal. At the time there was massive social unrest stemming from an unprecedented student strike in relation to unreasonable tuition fee increases. A naked protest against these tuition fee increases had been scheduled for June 7, 2012. This was in fact the first time that I would ever be appearing naked in public. And thankfully somebody had posted an invitation to the Montreal edition of the WNBR – scheduled for June 9 – on the Facebook page for the naked protest against tuition hikes.
I therefore scheduled myself to participate in the naked protest on June 7 and to participate in the WNBR on June 9. I had never been naked in public, and now I would have the opportunity to do so on two separate occasions only days apart. It was absolutely thrilling!
For those who may be interested, you can read more about my participation in the naked protest against tuition hikes by clicking here.
In 2012 the MTL edition of the WNBR was scheduled to begin at 10am on a Saturday morning with the bike route passing through a quiet area of town. In other words, not only is the temperature much colder at that time of day, but most people are also still in bed or haven’t left the house yet. This was not very good for visibility or outreach. After all, the WNBR is a protest and if nobody sees it then it is hard to call it a success. I would say that there were maybe thirty to fifty participants in this particular ride.
Nonetheless I still had fun. Maybe not as much fun as the naked protest that had occurred two days earlier, where I got to run away from the sound grenades and tear gas of the riot police while wearing nothing but my birthday suit – but I still had fun at the WNBR, and for a good cause to boot!
I am all against body shame and I am all for being proud of who you are. Allow me to say however, that I did the WNBR on rollerblades as opposed to using a bike so that I could be in a standing position and keep my stomach flat. Even somebody with a perfect six-pack abdomen will get stomach expansion when sitting down, and so I avoided sitting on a bike seat for this precise reason. Again, while I am against body shame I just feel better having a flat stomach – or as flat as can be – when I am naked in public. It’s simply a matter of personal preference and comfort. Besides, somebody needed to represent the rollerbladers, right?
Unfortunately I was unable to participate in 2013 or in 2014. Fortunately though, as of 2014 many changes were made after two of the participants took over organizing the event. They increased the outreach on social media so as to attract several more riders. They obtained permission from the Montreal Police for the route to go through the downtown core so as to increase the visibility of the ride. They also obtained permission to have both a daytime ride and a nighttime ride. Furthermore, the start time for the daytime ride was moved to 2PM when it is much warmer outside. While the daytime ride is seen mostly by shoppers, tourists and families, the nighttime ride which starts at 10PM is seen mostly by partyers, patio-goers and people out for a good time. In other words the Montreal edition of the WNBR is now seen by several demographics.
For 2015 I was lucky to participate once again and I attended both the day and nighttime rides wearing rollerblades – just like in 2012.
The daytime ride happened on Sunday, July 5, with approximately sixty to eighty participants. The turnout could have been better (apparently there were about 200 riders in 2014) but issues with the Facebook event page being shut down left many people with the impression that the ride had been cancelled. Surely next year the turnout will be much better, barring any issues with the Facebook event page.
Regardless of the turnout it was a lot of fun. It was a beautiful sunny summer day and the reactions and support from onlookers standing on the sidewalks or sitting in their cars was absolutely amazing. Some people honked their horns in support while others pulled out their cell phones in order to snap photos. Even families with children took the time to wave or give a thumbs-up. As I always say, nobody was harmed or traumatized because they saw a simple naked human body (or in this case a group of naked human bodies) – and this includes the children as much as it does the adults.
The nighttime ride happened on Saturday, August 1, with approximately 25 to 35 participants. Again, the turnout for the nighttime ride could have been better. However, several factors beyond our control complicated matters. To begin with it rained for a short period of time only two hours before the ride. This obviously dissuaded many people from coming. Also, the International Fireworks Competition was on, meaning that bikes are not allowed on public transit during this time. Clearly this may also have dissuaded many people from coming. Yet at 10PM we were good to go, and just like the daytime ride, it was a blast!
Once again people in cars honked their horns. Folks on the sidewalks screamed words of support. There were many smiles and thumbs-up. Personally, I savoured the feeling of rollerblading down a main city street with the warm breeze hitting my naked body all while chanting ”more ass, less gas”!
I’m already looking forward to next year. In the meantime I continue to hope that one day society will evolve enough to allow public nudity at all times, and not just for reasons of protest such as the World Naked Bike Ride.
I’m certain that had William Wallace participated he might have yelled: ”You can take away my clothes, and by doing so, you definitely wont be taking away my freedom”!
Last but not least, I was able to put together a short video from the daytime ride. Should this be of interest I invite you to watch it below:
Jade Sambrook inside the Montreal WNBR (2015) – available in 720P