Philly Naked Bike Ride 2016 Review
Guest blog by: Michael & Laurie Brown
Saturday, the 10th of September, we participated in our 4th Philly Naked Bike Ride. (This is the 8th annual World Naked Bike Ride in Philadelphia.) It turned out to be a scorcher of an afternoon with lots of sunshine, temperatures in the 90’s and very high humidity. The heat did not keep away the thousands of riders in this year’s event.
We started our day at 1:30pm parking at one of the after-party locations in the 1000 block of Watkins St in south Philadelphia. From there, we road about 5 miles through center city to the starting location at Glendinning Rock Garden along the beautiful Kelly Drive in west center city Philadelphia.
We arrived at the Glendinning Rock Garden a bit early and were graciously welcomed by a cheery team of PNBR volunteers. They directed us to the back of the park where we found a few hundred participants already in attendance. We wasted no time shedding our clothes and joining the fun. We found the body painting area in full swing with Wildfire FX providing the color, people playing music, several people demonstrating their juggling skills and we began greeting friends and taking in the positive atmosphere.
We spent about two hours in the park body painting ourselves, looking at all the unique body art and messages, posing for pictures, enjoying the “body awareness” and mingling with friends. Although this event draws an overwhelmingly younger crowd vs. other social nude events, we found a nice diverse group of people. I saw a number of folks who I would guess were in their 70’s which was impressive given the distance of the ride and the hot, humid day.
About 4:30 was the first announcement to begin lining up for the start of the ride. The announcement was met with cheers, air-horns and hollers from the crowd that gave you goose bumps knowing the ride was about to begin. Volunteers stopped traffic and the riders started down Kelly Dr, along the historic boat house row towards the famous Philadelphia Art Museum. Spectators sat in their cars, some shocked but most enthusiastically cheering, honking their horns and of course with iPhone’s in hand, filming all the nude people passing them by.
The route itself was the best so far in my opinion, out of the four times we’ve participated. In years past the route sometimes got very quiet in less pedestrian-populated areas. This year’s route took us from the Art Museum, down the very busy Spring Garden St, to N. Broad St, around City Hall, Independence Hall, into Old Town Philadelphia. These are all very heavily populated areas with lots of pedestrian traffic along the sidewalks. We were met with continuous cheers the entire time during the ride. From there we turned around and went back through Old Town by way of Market St and back through City Hall.
The next section of the route was a bit of a climb as we made our way up hill on Market St. to Drexel University and around Powelton Village but the long easy downhill descent on Chestnut St back into center city made it all worthwhile. Next we made our way into Rittenhouse Square which I think is everyone’s favorite location with the highest concentration of spectators. Hundreds of people lined the sidewalks, sometimes three rows deep watching the parade of riders. As we exited Rittenhouse Square we made our way out to South Broad St, another popular hot spot for spectators and then over to the ending location at Washington Square Park. The entire ride was just over 10 miles.
The excitement and exhilaration of the post ride was quickly extinguished by the Federal Park Officers who patrol the park and were quick to make everyone get dressed.
From Washington Square Park we made our way about a mile south back to 1002 Watkins St at Isaiah Zagar’s warehouse studio for one of the three post-ride after parties. There, the excitement level rose again as a $10 cover got you access to a Vegan Commissary, food vendors (food sold separately), indoor bike parking and bathrooms on the 1st floor and 7 kegs of Yards Brewery beer, a DJ with a black light dance party on the 2nd floor, no clothing required.
There was one small protest at the beginning of the ride from two individuals who were spewing hateful remarks towards nudity and homosexuality. These protesters were quickly shown how accepting the PNBR participants are when offered hugs, love and acceptance. This loving gesture set the vibe for the whole event and it carried through the rest of the day. It gave the feeling like you were in a safe protected environment where you could peacefully express yourself any way you wanted.
The PNBR is a unique event which advocates body acceptance, cycling advocacy, raising awareness about fuel consumption and promoting economic sustainability. Or you could peacefully protest anything that was important to you. We are already looking forward to our 5th ride in next year’s event.