On Saturday, the 27th day of June this year, over 400 cyclists took to the streets in Bristol, UK in celebration of what they termed “bikes and bodies” (BBC News, 2015), an annual event that was highly publicized and covered in all media channels including leading newspapers. According to the organizers, Ole Rudd and Will Bryson, the event is a peaceful powerful protest against vehicular culture and high dependency on oil; this year’s event highlighted the vulnerability of cyclists on Bristol’s crowded streets (BBC News, 2015). As Bristol’s sixth Naked Bike Ride (Cardwell, 2015), the response was very positive as indicated by the huge turnout, including many first-timers.
Rudd reiterated that the event was not to “shock or outrage,” but to highlight the critical concern of road safety (BBC News, 2015); Rudd remarked that if motorists can notice cyclists when they are nude, they should also lookout for cyclists when they are dressed. Participants were very enthused by this year’s event’s courses and turned out in their huge numbers with a singular purpose, to highlight road safety. Nevertheless, nudity was not necessarily imposed on anyone as the dress code theme was “bare as you dare”, giving participants the options. They used body painting, flags and banners, among other ingenious ways to pass messages, and hoped that the ride would remind motorists to mind cyclists while encouraging confidence in the human body and the use of bikes as an environment-friendly mode of transport.
A huge crowd of onlookers gathered along the streets and pavements to cheer the cyclists on as they went around the city and many people were not even offended; instead, this year’s event received massive positive feedback from the public (Cardwell, 2015). Similarly, there has been no official complaint about the event, which highlights the fundamental value of freedom of expression and other fundamental liberties such as the right of women to go topless (Cardwell, 2015). Many people who witnessed the event were amused by the cyclists, and even though some indicated they would not dare do it themselves, they acknowledged that it is liberating.
Media reception was positive too, judging from the many positive reviews, highlights and headlines that the event received; for instance, BBC News stated how the event highlighted “the importance of being noticed” (BBC News, 2015). In view of BBC’s comment, the event was well received by the media as well and, this further underscores the fundamental values of freedom of expression and tolerance as well as other crucial liberties espoused by the Bristol society.
Overall, this event clearly highlights that the naked body is something to be celebrated and embraced rather than to be ashamed of, and that being comfortable in one’s nudity can be liberating, thrilling and fun. In that case, this event subverts some of the previously entrenched conservative notions and perceptions of nakedness as something to be abhorred and covered. Most significantly, this event represents a significant positive shift in social values towards more acceptance of nakedness and the human body, unlike earlier on, when the subject of nudity was considered a taboo in social discourses.
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