Bike riders streak through San Francisco to protest oil dependency


Photo | Cameron Crowell

Riders stop along the Embarcadero during the world Naked Bike Ride.

In Justin Herman Plaza on San Francisco’s The Embarcadero, nearly 50 bike riders showed up on Saturday and stripped down for the 5th annual World Naked Bike Ride – San Francisco Southern Hemisphere Edition. Bikers celebrated the human form and personal freedom, while also protesting dependency on oil and other non-renewable forms of fuel.

With the weather permitting, San Franciscans were able to ride in solidarity with their fellow bicyclists riding in the Southern Hemisphere. The ride started down the Embarcadero, went to Fisherman’s Wharf, Aquatic Park, The Haight, Lombard Street, and other notable San Francisco locations.

Tourists and San Franciscans alike quickly pulled out their cameras and phones and laughed at the seemingly absurd event as it took place. Riders chanted, “Less Gas! More Ass!” and invited others to join the festivities. Many riders felt uncomfortable sharing their full names.

“I guess everyone’s interested in people taking their clothes off,” said Andy, a rider that declined to state his full name, “The best part is watching people’s reactions, you’ll see they are overwhelmingly positive.”

David Flores, originally from Ecuador, came to the event because he feels big oil poses a large issue in his home country. Chevron and other oil conglomerates use of their natural resources and contribute to the depletion of the rain forests, Flores said

“I think nudity always catches people’s attention and that is what is important in a protest,” said Flores as he applied body paint on another rider.

Last year San Francisco passed an anti-nudity law, banning being naked in a public forum, with exceptions for permitted events. The ride attracted little official attention from the police, who even offered a motorcycle escort if the ride got too large.

“I think [the law] is terrible, but I have to say there were some people not being respectful about it. It is a shame that those people had to ruin it,” said Andy.

Some riders came exclusively as a response to the recent law being passed, with little recognition for the environmental aspect.

“I support freedom. I think freedom makes people happy, you should be able to do things that don’t affect other people,” said Jeff, a San Francisco native, who has participated in other nude demonstrations.

With thousands watching, the ride did what it intended: attract attention. Some riders were not as excited about people taking photos, while others embraced the empowerment of being naked together in public.

“I like to be naked, and I finally mustered up the courage to come out,” said biker Carly about her first instance of public nudity.

The ride at its very essence was a depiction of the human capability of expression, not only celebrating each individual body, but also bringing more controversial issues like oil dependency directly into the public eye through the use of group nudity.

“Some people are born gay, I was born a nudist,” said Mike Reagan one of the original Urban Nudists and veteran of WNBR, “This is a celebration. Everyone is naked at some point, and it is an expression of freedom.”

The Northern Hemisphere portion of the WNBR will be held tentatively on June 14, if weather permits.