World Naked Bike Ride is toxic

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a fairly serious recreational cyclist, bike commuter and mountain biker. I clock 4000-5000 miles in an average year.

I also drive a car. Not often-- maybe 5000 miles in a good year. See, I’ve been bike commuting year round since freshman year of college and that was (checks notes) 21 years ago. I love it. And tonight I decided to do my friend a favor by and drive them to their 3rd shift job… and we got stopped by the WNBR on a narrow street.

Wasn’t a big problem at first. We had some “blockers” in front of us; I knew what they were doing and asked if we could pull into the parking strip; they refused to budge. OK, fine, we’ll stay put. But I felt like the blockers were trying to “make an example” of us. Sigh…

We sat there for 20 minutes cheering, hi-fiving and encouraging the riders. We were smiling and having a good time. A lot of cyclists said thanks, and cheered back. But more than a few didn’t. And it’s the toxic comments that really made me angry and inspired me to post this:

“WHERE ARE YOUR TITS?!”

“SHOW US YOUR TITS!”

“YOU’RE LITERALLY RUINING THIS RIDE”

“GO BACK TO GRESHAM”

“FUCK YOUR CAR”

and so on. Probably 10-15 completely un-provoked comments shouted as I was sitting there, unable to get my vehicle out of the road. If the blockers had allowed me to pull off the road, if they published a route? Well, I would have steered clear. No sweat. Instead I was railroaded into a group of sometimes-angry and aggressive people and it was hard not to feel like they were looking for a target.

Frankly, I feel hurt. I’ve never been a part of the “bike activist” community but I follow it on social media, bikeportland, etc. I’ve yelled at my share of drivers when they do dangerous stuff or threaten me. But I received this aggression tonight for the sin of, gee, I don’t know… being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It’s depressing to feel bias first-hand, and also to get a glimpse of reality: those who claim to be helping are just as eager to actually do the opposite.

I can’t help but imagine that many other people were targets of the same words tonight; most of those folks probably don’t have as strong a connection to bicycling as I do. And I cringe, thinking about the damage caused. If someone like me feels this way then it’s not hard to say it: WNBR is toxic.

3 Likes

So sorry you had to experience that. What a bunch of misogynistic a@&holes!

1 Like

The toxic participants seem to have missed the original intent of the ride. It was never intended as “oogle us,” and I expect vulnerability was the last thing those guys (and I assume they were male) wanted to present.

1 Like

That’s a bummer and something that organizers should recognize and act to correct.

Before COVID shelved Sunday Parkways rides, I noticed a trend of people booing and pouring verbal abuse on participants on e-bikes. I was both saddened and surprised by this. The other thing that surprised me about this was that women were the worst offenders.

After several interactions like this, my daughters, 7 & 10 at the time, started asking me what this was about as they clearly recognized some individuals being singled out without realizing they were riding e-bikes.

Will this carry over to Biketown bikes now?

Yeah, I get it. You get enough people in one place that there will be some unfortunate incidents like that and the ones you describe but biking does suffer from elitism and tribalism and those are elements we should work to eliminate.

Sorry to hear you were treated this way. Just remember, when people are riding bikes, they are just people riding bikes. They are as diverse and differing in opinions and attitudes and outlooks as any other person in a car or walking or whatever else. What I’m trying to say is that expectations are weird. I see so many people expect “cyclists” to behave a certain way and then get mad/irritated when that expectation is not met. Just because someone is on a naked bike ride, doesn’t mean they aren’t assholes. And IMO the attitude of these people doesn’t reflect on the ride, it reflects on those individuals. That being said, I also know that when some people get on big rides like this they get pretty bold and righteous about what they’re doing. Yes that can get annoying, and it’s a sign of immaturity and misunderstanding, but that’s just how people are.

3 Likes

I have to disagree with Jonathan here a little bit. I think it’s generally true that people on bikes are just people. But WNBR isn’t just people on bikes it’s an EVENT, and an event’s participants are often trying to act out what they perceive to be the spirit of said event. Unfortunately, being a dick to (whomever they have decided are) “normies” has been the goto move of the unimaginative when trying to “keep Portland weird”, for a couple of decades now. It’s tiresome as hell.

This is what they call a “red pill” moment. If you haven’t personally had one yet, you will soon.

2 Likes

It seems that this type of toxic and attacking behavior has become the norm in Portland political advocacy. It is in keeping with the common, “fuck Ted Wheeler” and “all cops are bastards” rhetoric. I listened to the Portland City Commission hearing last year where they made the decision to cut $15million from the police budget. I heard multiple people testifying shouting “fuck you Ted” in their testimony. I’m really shocked and disappointed that this has become the normal discourse and there aren’t really progressive leaders pushing back on this kind of stuff.

I also have a HUGE problem with white people calling BIPOC officers bastards. There is just so much class and race privilege that goes into this, but that’s a whole other discussion.

I have appreciated that BikePortland has tried to crack down on hate speech, but even here sometimes this type of toxic rhetoric is allowed.

3 Likes

Whereabouts did this happen? I was riding directly behind the Tiki DJ bike right at the front of the ride for nearly the whole ride and can honestly say that at no point did the ride have to split to the left and to the right of a car to go around it (that’s what I’m reading as implied here). Up at the front of the ride, I only experienced smiles and cheers exchanged between observers and participants (even with the cars trapped by the corkers). The only taunting I heard from riders were to unaware riders who happened to intersect with the ride on their way from A to B: “get naked and join us!” I take that as a good taunt. I’m sorry you had to experience a less happy experience. That sucks.

I know how with the gaps that sometimes happen in the larger rides (and I’m guesstimating about two thousandish were there for the full moon ride at the staging area) that separate corking events and conflicts can happen between the front, middle, and back of the ride.

To Jonathan’s point and to use my own words: Assholes are assholes regardless of their means of conveyance. After the ride ended at the dance party on the Springwater, I tipped the DJ and I covered back up to ride home. As I rode through the CEID on my way to NE, a group of drunken bar hoppers remarked to me riding alone, “you’re not naked, you’re doing it wrong.” It was both mildly amusing and entirely missing the point if not a bit bro-ish, and I just continued on with zero reaction to it. Had they been participants on the ride, maybe they too would have been among those yelling toxic things.

That’s terrible. The thing that stands out to me is the behavior of the blockers. The event can’t prevent all bad behavior by participants, but it seems–from your description at least–that the blockers could have allowed you to pull off the road, and that could have protected you from the behavior you were subjected to.

Since the event doesn’t publish the route, it doesn’t have the excuse other events have that people can avoid the event by planning ahead. The event is lucky you were so patient. Given the shorter fuses drivers seem to have now, expecting someone to not react badly when they’re told without warning they have to wait 20 minutes seems unwise at best. When you throw in being harassed by people on top of being blocked, it seems likely that eventually a driver will decide to simply drive through the event to get out of there, with all the danger inherent in that.

1 Like

[quote=“Varner, post:7, topic:1323”]
I also have a HUGE problem with white people calling BIPOC officers bastards
[/quot

I would add I have a problem with people of any color or creed calling any officers bastards. It’s not going to help us improve public safety in any way, shape or form. In fact, it will act to prevent reform.