5th Annual Earth Day World Naked Bike Ride, San Francisco, 2015-04-18

On Saturday morning the half of San Francisco was fogged in, not boding well for the WNBR. However, around 10 am the inner Sunset district started to lighten up, so perhaps not everything is bad, I thought, as Justin Herman Plaza at Market and Embarcadero is as eastward as you get before going into the S.F. Bay. By 10:30 am nobody had arrived, and a cool breeze – coming from the western fog belt – kept the sun and blue sky from overheating anybody gathering to wait for the event.

A few street people hung out in the vicinity, but those one better stay clear of. Lately people with expensive cameras have been robbed, at gunpoint and otherwise – in the Bay Area. This happened both with birders, photojournalists, and others with good photographic equipment. I guess one of these days one needs to get a carry permit and pack a 9mm weapon for self defense.

By the time I arrived at 10:30am, a black guy was lying dressed on the grassy hillside where we usually take group pictures of the WNBR participants just before the riders take off on their plaza circle drive and ride onto the city streets. “FunCheap” had actually announced the WNBR ride in the latest event listing, so perhaps the bicyclists will show up after all. A uniformed park ranger snooped around a bit, obviously having seen the listing and hoped to somehow throw his weight around and tell people what to do. The listing said about this event:

“It is time to tune up those bikes and toss those riding duds in the wash; you won’t need them for the World Naked Bike Ride: Earth Day Edition in San Francisco on Saturday, April 18, 2015.

“Meet at 11 am in Justin Herman Plaza at the northeast corner, behind the fountain. The ride begins at noon and will focus on downtown SoMa areas, Embarcadero, and most flat areas along the financial area downtown. You will go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and then back toward the Earth Day Festival in the Mission District before ending the ride in the Castro.

“It’s the second WNBR of the year, in conjunction with Earth Day and the FIFTH anniversary of the British Petroleum Deep Horizon explosion and Macondo Well oil spill disaster, the worst oil spill in history that occurred on April 20, 2010. Ironically, environmentalist John Muir’s birthday.

“How naked is “naked”? And what about that nudity ban? You decide how much to bare; you can go all out in the joy of sun clad nakedness, go topless, wear bikinis, body paint or latex, leotard or lingerie, tuxedos, or whatever you feel like. For this ride, however, since an oil spill is the target of their angst, an appropriate statement can be made to mimic spilled oil. Nude riders can use black body paint splattered or coated.”

By 11 am one couple with bikes put themselves down next to the palm trees, clothed, of course, but we’ll see if the folks show up in the last moment. Then within minutes another half dozen men in the almost-nude arrived, and more were coming. By 11:15 am the eager beaver park ranger came trotting back, and he made a straight line for Lloyd who, as usual for these events, showed up with a cap on his head and a cock sock to deny any claim that he was totally nude. However, mister eager beaver continued writing up the citation, claiming that because Lloyd had not hidden his butt, he was nude, period. Lloyd protested vociferously, but he was forced to sign the citation. No one else was cited, although several men were now completely nude, but they had all moved away from the plaza and out to the wide sidewalk of Embarcadero, outside the jurisdictional reach of any official park employee, the Justin Herman Plaza having been declared part and parcel of Recreation and Parks Department and thus under their park laws. A month before, at the exact same place, when on 2015-03-14, the 6th Annual WNBR, SF Southern Hemisphere Edition had taken place, no “park rangers” had been sent out to harass the riders, and half a dozen SF City Police had slowly ridden through the gathering group of nudes and neither said anything nor stopped to make a nuisance of themselves. The cops seemed to understand that at events like WNBR, similar to the Bay to Breakers race and the Folsom Street Fair, lots of nudity would be visible, and the police shouldn’t interfere. Actually, a couple of years ago, at the Folsom event I got pictures of a promotional booth which the city police had in the middle of on of the blocks.

Back to the Embarcadero sidewalk, with all the hullabaloo and hope to get a few more participants in the last moment, the time was now around 12:30 pm and time to depart. The group mounted their bikes, got out in the bike lane and left with no more hassles from anyone. I counted around 15 to 20 participants, of which 1 man was dressed, 6 men semi-dressed (shorts on), the rest of the men nude, 1 woman dressed, 1 woman in bikini, and one single woman nude, completely nude. Her name is Sharon, she is from Novato, and she is proud of her 50 years “old” body, which still is in good shape, and she felt good about joining the WNBR in the nude. Good for her! Bravo!

Leif Heilberg, April 2015.

All photographs taken by Leif Heilberg, Viking Photography Inc., vikingphoto@earthlink.net

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