Well, here we go again: tomorrow is World Naked Bicycle Ride Day.
We have to start by admitting that this is not an easy concept. But for better or worse, WNBR is an annual worldwide bike ride that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists everywhere and decries society’s dependence on pollution-based transport. It is, in the organisers’ original words way back in 2004, an international clothing-optional bike ride in which participants plan, meet and ride together en masse on human-powered transport (the vast majority on bicycles, but some on skateboards and inline skates), to “deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world”. The dress code motto is “bare as you dare”.
The somewhat chaotic announcements concerning participation tomorrow suggests that there are going to be something like 70 cities in 14 countries participating. That strikes me as good news for democracy, if not necessarily “decency”. Let us ponder for a moment all of the countries and cities in the world in which it would be illegal to organize participation in this year’s World Naked Bicycle Ride. Not such a pretty thought.
Of course there will be discussion and divergent views, some of them quite possibly rather passionate. But we have to keep in mind this: it takes a bit of time and a certain amount of cultural flexibility to come around to understand the innocence and the relevance of the concept. But it’s 2014 and if we cannot loosen up a bit and at least permit others to participate in such an event, well we may have a problem with our understanding of democracy .
It is interesting to consider for a moment what kind of city/culture provides an environment for such a protest gesture. It would be silly and out of place in cities and countries in which the bicycle has already found its full place. So not much sense in stripping off your clothes in the Netherlands, Denmark and all of those European cities in which getting around by bike is accepted and supported by public policy. But where the full potential of safe cycling does not exist, well there you may have an argument. De gustibus. . .
The Huffington Post has coverage of tomorrow’s event in Portland Oregon under the title “World Naked Bike Ride Arouses Strong Reactions From Portland Residents” , while Wikipedia does an honest job of introducing concept at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Naked_Bike_Ride . Then there is http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/ with coverage in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Australian.
* The 2015 Southern Hemisphere WNBR event is scheduled for Saturday 7 March 2015
* The 2015 Northern Hemisphere ride is scheduled for Saturday 13 June 2015
– – – > For latest news on WNBR events check out http://goo.gl/x3QkaQ
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Here’s a little thinking exercise for us, not least if you are no too comfortable with the idea of peddling around in your city in the emperor’s new clothes. Let’s make a little list of cities and countries around the world in which you and a couple of hundred people you barely (sorry!) know can do this safely without the threat of violence or retribution (look here and here for examples). Now what about the list of countries in which you would almost definitely face a violent reaction from the authorities or even individual citizens or groups.
Now, where would you prefer to bring up your children?
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From the editor:
A quick confessional: I may support the idea in principle but in the interest of full disclosure I have to go on record to explain that I have not yet doffed the unnecessary and joined the gladdening crowd. But don’t count me out for next year (assuming my wife lets me , of course, which is quite another matter).
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Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton