Critical Ass: SF's World Naked Bike Ride 2009

Categories: SF Oddities

On Saturday at noon, Justin Herman Plaza was sun-drenched and buzzing with the activity of particularly open-minded crowd, and passersby were beginning to take notice. "What the hell are all these people doing half-naked and shit?" one man cried.

He was obviously not familiar with the way things are here in San Francisco, where bare and body-painted cyclists have pedaled to Golden Gate Park and back once a year, for the past six years, as part of the larger international World Naked Bike Ride. In more than 25 cities, rational for participation ranges from body positive values to protesting dependence on oil to bike safety awareness, legality issues regarding public nudity, sharing the road, and a general affinity for stripping down (and you can see our slideshow here).

This year, like every other year, saw its share of florescent Peace signs, hearts, and flowers painted on naked bodies, as well as eye-catching slogans such as "Bush? Never Again" (above a woman's hairless crotch)." 

Wendy, a laid-back San Francisco woman who stumbled on the local ride by coincidence, wound up with spray-painted hearts on her nipples and a flaming crotch, compliments of Airbrush Body Art by FaceFX. "I seem to just find the right thing at the right time," Wendy said, cradling a heart-stamped breast in each hand.

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Others had traveled from as far away as Yosemite and San Diego, said a man who seemed in charge, although he claimed no one was actually in charge. The man, who requested anonymity, had come from San Jose in his Jetta, which runs on vegetable oil. He was more worried about his day job than he was about the law.

"Being naked in San Francisco is not illegal," he said, and he is correct.

This guy swears he's not in charge.

Although there are laws that prohibit lewdness in public, says police spokeswoman Sergeant Lyn Tomioka , a group of naked cyclists don't meet that standard. A man with an erection would. A streaker might, depending on whether somebody got offended. But nakedness itself is not a crime in San Francisco, Tomioka concurred.  

In fact, for the first time ever, police helped block traffic for the ride, said the (non-)organizer. But one cop also blocked the entrance to Golden Gate Park, where public nudity is prohibited.    

The ride, which attracted an estimated 70 participants, was touted among participants as the most successful yet. Another naked ride is scheduled for Saturday, June 20, at noon, starting from People's Park in Berkeley.


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