MONTREAL — Sporting only helmets, shoes and a blatant disregard for full body sunburns, some 25 nude cyclists took to the streets of Montreal to raise awareness of global environmental issues.
The Saturday bike ride celebrating cycling and the human body is part of a series of international events — held under the tag line ’ending the indecent exposure to cars and pollution’ — that have been taking place since 2001 in some 25 countries and 70 cities.
Local organizer Dan Parkinson is a lifelong cyclist and environmentalist who says nudity is a novel way to call attention to serious issues.
“It’s what gets the attention,” he said. “This is why it’s going to be on the TV tonight, because we’re naked.”
But he noted that it’s not just a fringe event for people with a penchant for slightly saucy rallies, but a worldwide action that draws thousands in some cities.
“This is a global movement because this is a global problem,” Parkinson said. “We’re destroying our planet and that’s doing a lot more damage than any sort of nudity could do to this city.”
Dedicated urban cyclist Thomas Dean Nordlum, painting a large red anti-carbon dioxide sign across Parkinson’s chest, says at first glance, he found the idea of a bike ride in the buff “a little off the wall.”
“But after I thought about it some more is seemed less scandalous, it becomes less shocking.”
He thinks the visual impact of the protest may help underline their message.
“I don’t feel safe half the time on the road even though I bike almost everyday,” Nordlum said. “We want to reinforce that we are part of traffic.”
Certainly, a hoard of nude men and women — some in dainty sun hats, bunny ears or wigs and nipple tassels — riding by on two wheels made an impact on the city’s weekend commuters.
They snapped photos with their mobile phone cameras, honked their horns and gapped at the cyclists flew by.
For Anuska Martins, an advocate of both sexual health and positive body image, the ride was a perfect combination of two of her main interests.
“I’ve always been into public nudity, I’m all about being comfortable in your own skin,” she said.
The fact that the ride also had an environmental message was only a bonus.
“It’s so important to promote and advocate for the rights and respect of people who choose to engage in health-conscious and environmentally-friendly forms of transit,” she noted.
“All my friends are cyclists but they weren’t comfortable with the nudity thing. So I had to come out and represent for them.”
It’s the second such event in Montreal and similar bike rides take place in at least six other Canadian cities.
Parkinson, who participated in the Ottawa ride in 2008, says he’s hoping for a greater turnout next year as well as a higher profile route. The current route was southeast of the central downtown core.
He wants to see more people willing to adjust their lifestyles for the benefit of the environment.
“We need to see people ready to make changes in their life that they weren’t ready to do, such as ride a bike,” he said. “Not naked, but doing something they usually wouldn’t.”