PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of people in various states of dress — or undress – set out Saturday for a ride through some of Philadelphia’s main streets and sights for the 14th Philly Naked Bike Ride.
The annual ride, which started in 2009, is billed as promoting cycling as a key form of transportation and fuel-conscious consumption. It is also meant to encourage body positivity. Organizers stress, however, that participants aren’t required to ride completely in the buff, telling them to get “as bare as you dare.”
The course, roughly 13 miles (21 kilometers) this year, changes annually but generally passes city landmarks. This year, bikers went by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, site of the steps featured in the “Rocky” movies, the historic City Hall, tony Rittenhouse Square and the South Street entertainment area. The ride was to end at Independence Hall.
Garry J. Gadikian, from Atlantic City, New Jersey, speaking in Fairmount Park at a pre-race get-together, said the ride was something he had wanted to do for years.
“It’s a very freeing experience, and definitely something that you should do once in your life for that freedom,” he said before joining about 100 fellow participants who were having their bare flesh adorned with body paint and glitter.
Christopher Jordan, who works in information technology in New York City, also joined the ride for the first time. He said he thought it was “more than just about taking the clothes off.”
“It’s just feeling comfortable with your own body and it’s OK to look at other people too, compare or not compare or just see how other people feel comfortable in their own bodies,” Jordan said.
Organizers said the ride wasn’t limited only to bicycles. Scooters, e-bikes, rollerblades, skates, skateboards, and even joggers were also welcome, although motorized bikes and scooters were asked to watch their speed. Organizers also point to a code of conduct that bars any kind of physical or sexual harassment.
“Having a column of nude cyclists extending blocks behind, blocks through the city, and causing a decent amount of disruption, interrupting dinner hour” helps show how many cyclists the city has — telling drivers “they need to share the road,” said Wesley Noonan-Sessa, an event facilitator who regularly rides his bike in Philadelphia.
But, he said, he thinks the naked element also helps in ”desexualizing nudity.”
The ride used to be held in September, often in temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 degrees Celsius), but enough of the naked riders mentioned feeling chilly that it was moved to August beginning a few years ago. The 2020 ride was called off because of the pandemic.