Naked Bikers

I hadn’t gone out of my way to photograph the London World Naked Bike Ride, but the point where all the riders who start at a number of points around central London meet up for the final section of their ride was close to the station from which I get my train home, so it seemed to be worth taking a few minutes to cover the event.

The first London WNBR took place in 2004 but with very little advance publicity – I’d attended and photographed ‘Bikefest’ which it is associated with on the day it took place but remained unaware of it. In 2005 I was out of the country when it took place. So I first photographed this event back in 2006, when quite a few people I knew were taking part.

This year I think there was nobody I knew in the event, or at least no one that I recognised without their clothes on. The ride is billed as “a protest against oil dependency and car culture” and back in 2006 it appeared to appeal to many people involved more generally in environmental protests. The message of the ride has never been very clear to those watching it and I think over the years the participants have changed, and it now seems much more dominated by naturists and has a rather smaller proportion of women taking part. The total number of riders this year, stated to be 1300, was roughly twice that in 2006.

There are some problems in photographing the event. It take place on the public highway, where no one has any expectation of privacy – and indeed people ride naked to make a statement, but some have tried to restrict photography in various ways. Not that this has ever had any effect on the crowds of tourists who the ride surprises who almost to a man (and many women too) get out their phones and take snap after snap.

But while the legal position on taking photographs of the event may be clear, there are problems in publishing the images in some media and particularly on platforms such as Facebook. I try hard to take at least some pictures with discretely placed saddles and handlebars.

I’d had enough after around 15 minutes and didn’t bother to try and follow the cyclists after they had moved off, though it would have been fairly easy to catch them several more times as they cycled around central London. But I went to a nearby pub with a friend I’d met photographing the event, and then on to cover another event. Or at least to try to; I arrived outside the Home Office at the right time on the right day to find no one there. I waited for a bit, checking the details on my phone, but after waiting for 20 minutes caught a passing bus to Vauxhall for the train home.

More pictures from the 2019 London World Naked Bike Ride.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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