Naked cyclists tour through downtown Kelowna to raise awareness

"More ass, less gas," yelled out one nude-ish cyclist as they rode down Bernard Avenue.

Naked cyclists rode through downtown Kelowna Saturday to drive home a point.

Around a dozen Kelowna cyclists bared it all Saturday, pedaling down the city’s main drag naked in an effort to  highlight the vulnerability of the biking community and protest the addiction to fossil fuels in a car-dependent society.

“More ass, less gas,” yelled out one nude-ish cyclist as they passed Mad Mango on Bernard Avenue, succinctly explaining the point of the ride for pedestrians and drivers who paused to take in the spectacle.

Around 10 minutes later, just 30 minutes after it began, the ride was over and all involved considered it a success, which is remarkable considering it coincided with a deluge.

“It went pretty well,” said organizer Liam Park, of Kelowna’s contribution to the World Naked Bike Ride at the Lake Avenue beach, where participants gathered their gear and started heading home.

“It started a little chilly, and halfway through the rain really started coming down, so I’m cold now. But people were really receptive. They were standing outside of restaurants and cheering us on.”

Park organizes the event for a few reasons, not the least of which is needing to raise community awareness about car dependency and the resulting pollution.

He also thinks it’s important to highlight  dangers facing local cyclists — despite what he sees as relatively good cycling infrastructure.

On average in B.C., ICBC has reported there are 10 cycling deaths a year. In April of this year, Kelowna saw its third biking fatality in 12 months.

“A lot of people say that the cyclists who ride around are jerks, but if you’re on a bike and you’re riding like a jerk you’re just going to harm yourself,” he said. “If you are irresponsible in a car you are more likely to cause death or life altering damage.”

Highlighting the fragility of cyclists, the ride stopped at the ghost bike that had been set up for Patricia Keenan on Bernard Avenue.

On July 14 2015, she was cycling behind a friend, when someone suddenly opened the driver’s side door of a parked car.

Keenan, 38, ride into the door and, despite wearing a helmet, sustained serious head injuries. She died in hospital two days later.

“Whether it’s traffic or greenhouse gas emissions cars have a constant affect on us and it can be overwhelming,” Park said.

Thus, the nudity. It was a metaphor for vulnerability.

It was also a reminder that nakedness isn’t something to be balked at or shamed.

“We should celebrate our bodies,” said ride participant Dani Lion, who was wearing little more than some pasties and a boa.

“Our bodies are our bodes. Being naked isn’t sexual. It’s natural. Right now I’m being free and happy.”

And she got the impression that the women who she and her friends were cycling by were empowered by the sight of that freedom and happiness.

“There was a lot of applause (from women) and they responded well,” she said.