New Orleans hosted a wide variety of activities this weekend. From the annual Pho Festival, to the 2018 Pride Parade and a Creole Tomato Festival, the city had a lot to offer. However, only one event featured completely nude adults riding bicycles.
The World Naked Bike Ride 2018 took place Saturday — and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Hundreds of naked cyclists rode throughout the French Quarter to promote bicycle roadway safety and protest gas and oil emissions.
“Our mission is to take to the streets riding nude as the best way of defending our dignity as humans on bikes,” the event’s Facebook page reads. “We expose just how vulnerable we are as cyclists on our own city streets. We also ride to protest the world's oil dependency, mainly cars, that negatively impacts the environment on this planet.”
While some of the more modest participants wore their swimsuits, others just wore their birthday suits. The nearly 300 bold riders started their ride from Piety and Royal streets at 5 p.m. and rode along the Quarter.
“[The ride] impacted me by showing how important it is to respect bike riders on the road,” said Brenley Farris, an attendee of the bike ride. “It’s really dangerous for them. Safety should be a priority.”
USA Today named New Orleans one of the top 50 best cities for cycling and was named fifth in bike commuting across the country. The idea behind the ride is if you notice cyclists while they’re naked, then you should notice them every day. The ride is almost like a moving art installation, with many participants painting phrases on their backs such as “burn fat, not oil,” “lookin’ twice now?” and “now you see me?”
Dion Rillieux, who participated in the ride, frequently bikes around New Orleans and said he’s frustrated motorists don’t watch out for him.
“It’s everyday, or every other day, you almost get hit,” Rillieux said. “People need to pay more attention.”
In 2014, New Orleans had one of the highest bicycle fatality rates. In 2015, the City Council created the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Committee, which focuses on safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2017, the City Council approved new ordinances that increased protection for cyclists. The new laws penalize motorists who put cyclists at risk by obstructing pathways and safety distances.
“I tried really hard to focus more on the issue they’re advocating for than the naked bodies,” Farris laughed. “But it was hard not to look. I feel like now I’ve seen every different body type.”
The World Naked Bike Ride is an international event, held in 70 cities across 20 countries. The first ride was in 2004 and it wasn’t until 2008 that New Orleans joined in. Initially, riders were protesting against oil dependency and celebrating the human body. In 2006, the cause started focusing more on cycling safety.