Naked bike ride: the low-down

2014-03-07 15:00
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Cape Town's 3rd Naked Bike Ride

Naked and semi-naked cyclists took part in the 2013 Cape Town Naked Bike Ride, to promoted choosing bikes over cars, being more responsible with energy supplies such as oil and pollution as well as being more aware of cyclists on the road.

This weekend heralds one of the strangest and most intriguing events on Cape Town's social calendar - The Naked Bike Ride!

Taking place on Saturday 8 March, the fourth installment of the World Naked Bike Ride Cape Town will be taking place in Somerset Road, Green Point. Yup, the very day before the Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour is set to kick off.

Apart from the overwhelming awkwardness of strangers seeing those normally covered jiggly bits jiggling in all their glory, just the thought of the utter physical discomfort makes us, here at News24 Travel wince.

However, unlike the complete recreational quality of nude bathing, this event is more than just a bit of racy fun. It is an outcry and a protest against the damaging effects of car culture and oil dependency as well as a celebration of the power, individuality and vulnerability of the human body.

Will you be participating this year? Tweet us your pics to @news24travel or send them to 

Find out more about the event's history and concept in this Q&A with Andrew Wheeldon, one of its organisers and masterminds.

1. Can you give a bit of background about the Global Naked Bike Ride concept?

It all started in the 1980s when cities the world over had to face the negative effects caused by the over-population of cars: pollution, congestion and lack of parking space. As urban areas became more car dominant and grid-locked, accidents increased and mobility commuters - cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders etc - became sadly sidelined.

This was exacerbated further in the following decade, and slowly but surely protest movements began to arise and pressure was put on city planners and government to rethink the mobility plan for cities.

Bike protest events known as Critical Mass were organised in major cities across the US and Europe, and later spread to Latin America.

2. So, when did they turn naked?

In 2004, some cities sought to increase the methods of protest by including a wider group of activists and artists, focusing specifically on the vulnerability of cyclists in modern urban environments.

As a result, the idea of using the naked body as an extreme way of depicting this vulnerability and exposure was taken up and critical mass began to morph and become known in some circles as ‘critical ass'.

At the first Naked Bike Ride in 2004, 28 cities in 10 countries on 4 continents took part.

By 2010, it had grown to 74 cities across 17 countries.

The issues that participants are protesting have expanded - to now include the sharing of all road space, the rights and respect of cyclists by all road users, health, efficiency and sustainability, and the vulnerability of active mobility users.

3. When did you first decide Cape Town should have one too?

A group of concerned individuals got together in January 2011 and decided to organize the event for the day before the Cape Argus PnP Cycle Tour.

We applied for permission but this was not provided - but neither was an instruction or message not to hold the event. The team of, perhaps, eight organised the event in two months, and a film company recorded it on the day of the event.

4. How many people participated in the first event back in 2011?

Approximately 200.

6. Have you had a lot of resistance? And if so, from whom mostly?

Well, there was no public outcry or resistance in 2011, but the City of Cape Town is not happy about hosting it as an official event. The fact that the name contains the word Naked, alone, makes it illegal.

7. Is it a race or just a ride? And if it is a race, what will the winners be receiving?

It is just a simple social ride - no racing.

8. Do you think Cape Town is bike friendly enough? Or is there still more that can be done?

Much more can be done, but it is changing.

In 2004 I established a non-motorised transport forum, which I chaired till 2009 then handed over to the City. It has since been renamed the Active Mobility Forum and the forum consists of city transport officials, planners, engineering consultants, provincial transport officials, NGO's and civic activist groups.

Projects of the city and province relating to mobility are brought to the table and discussed with all interested parties and commented upon.

We are beginning to witness bike lanes and other upgraded facilities that better address the needs of all.

10. How much does it cost to participate?

It's totally free!

11. Then finally... Isn't it really uncomfortable riding starkers?

It can be - one has to sit very gently down onto the saddle and keep aware of this for the entire ride.... ;-)

12. Advice for first time riders?

Come along, see a new and beautiful part of Cape Town.... Have a fun day out with some beautiful people..... enjoy the ride.... Experience Cape Town like you have never done...

And, the event's motto is "Come as bare as you dare," so if total nudity freaks you out just a bit, opt for something less revealing.

Like Cape Town Naked Bike Ride's Facebook page for more details about the event and answers to important FAQs like "Will I be arrested?"

Photographs by Laia Abril.

Read more on:    travel  |  travel south africa

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