It’s finally over. As I sit here Monday morning, still exhausted from a long weekend, achy joints and stiff back I can be satisfied in that one fact. It’s not that I hate it – far from it! I absolutely LOVE WNBR and this year will mark my sixth year on the volunteer organizer commitee – it’s more like that long pause in between planning for next year. I walked to work bleary eyed on Sunday morning with a wonderful thought that I had planned out my month wonderfully and everything was lining up very neatly in my schedule planning. This event ending so I can enjoy Pedalpalooza and finish tying up the loose ends of my tiny event and then focus on finishing the planning of The Bike Fair at the end of the month.
WNBR doesn’t really start on June 7th. Far from it. In fact the organizers generally meet sometime midsummer to talk about the successes and struggles of the current year’s event. Painstakingly go over video footage of the event to get the best estimate we can of participants and prepare for late summer’s volunteer appreciation party. That’s right – we have a big ol’ hoopla to celebrate the dozens of great people that give their time to to help make this happen before, during and after the ride. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the event and it can include everything from fundraising, crowd control, on-ride medic, marshal, mechanic, picking up trash, set-up/take-down and more. Most of the volunteer positions allow you to still actually participate in the ride.
Photo By Jonathan Maus
I want to give a shout-out to so many volunteers. I apologize that I didn’t get most of your names. Specifically at the beginning of the ride, we had a new position this year; our “Gate Keepers!” These were a team that Timur and I headed up that widened the exit from the park and kept spectators from stepping out into the street. This group of about six people stood holding police line (I actually think it was ‘danger asbesto’ tape) to gently hold people back and firmly tell people to keep up on the sidewalk so the riders to get through. You are all awesome for being out on the front line! Thank you!
Special thanks to a volunteer named Luna who was the ONLY volunteer to stay after the ride left to assist with garbage pick-up duty. Unfortunately she was unable to participate in the ride due to a knee issue. But I got to benefit with her help. Yay me! She, a (probably bored) security officer and I together broke down our volunteer station and then began gathering the garbage and recycling before a couple of the other organizers and volunteers came back from enjoying the ride to assist. We got the site cleaned up, made a final round and I was on my bike with trailer hitched to leave by 11:20pm. Then a second group a volunteers came by early the next morning to do a second cleaning sweep by the light of day. I was happily informed that it looked great and as usual.
Random BikePortland article comment
So what about the planning process? The sooner the better is the optimum thought here. In fact there is already a bullet point list flying about outlining to-do lists and things like that. Just because we are volunteers doesn’t mean we are amateurs when it comes to event planning. Many of the organizers have backgrounds in event planning, media, marketing, volunteer coordinating and all sorts of varied backgrounds which make this event great. We try to start meet up in the fall once a month, communicating a lot by email and then as it becomes closer to the event meeting more often to ensure that all our bases our covered.
And that finally brings us to Saturday morning. I took the day off from work so I could sleep in, which meant that I woke up at 8:30 instead of 5:30 in the morning. Woohoo! I then just took it easy that morning and ate some food, started working on my to-do list from home, packed up my trailer and was on my way to the start location, arriving at 5pm.
There was already a couple dozen people milling about the park and a body painter set up on the grass with a huge ol’ mirror in the middle of the park where several people had been getting gussies up. We were able to touch bases on what needed to go on that evening and who was doing what, and then it started happening. Riders began showing up – and so did the creepers. My boyfriend, despite not feeling well all week stopped by on his way home from work to see if I needed anything to eat. He let me know afterwards that he was talking to a couple of spectators that said that they had been standing around watching, were leaving to go to dinner and then planned on coming back to watch. That’s just icky. Who does that? “Hey honey, whaddya want to do tonight? Play Scrabble? Go to the movies? Stand in the field and watch naked people like a bunch of creepers?” Seriously. If you want to support the ride but don’t want to actually go on the ride, give the fundraiser volunteers money, wear a bathing suit or take off your shirt so at least you seem like you fit in. Volunteer! Pick up some trash or something.
Every year we have the painstaking task of figuring out where to contain thousands of naked cyclists before the event. This is just one of dozens of action items that we have to accomplish in order for this event to succeed. This is actually one of the more priority items. Like top three. Last year when we had that amazing opportunity to have our event at the Portland Art Museum I was unable to attend due to my appendix removal, but that was apparently a fantastic location. I mean, you got to go tour the museum in the buff! Every location has its pros and cons, though. Being downtown has its cons last year. In previous years we were in a field were we had to mow it for hours and pick up all variety of unmentionable debris prior to the event. The unique qualities of this location was that it was in a residential neighborhood away from downtown. Why is this notable? Specifically because of one curmudgeon neighbor. Despite doing everything by the book, following all the steps we needed to do as required to hold our event, we were suddenly getting more attention than normal. I mean, people love to talk about WNBR and it is a ratings grabber, but this was moreso than usual. One article after another and at the head of the anti-WNBR bandwagon was this one woman. Honestly, I can maybe remember one other interview that wasn’t done by her. In one article it stated that her husband collected 25 signatures from neighbors. A whopping 25! She states that she is a tax-payer and so something MUST be done! I hate to remind her that all this exposure in the media tells me is that she 1) has no understanding of how the law works, 2) has no understanding of how taxes work and who tax-payers are, 3) in a previous year tried to drive through a protest that was currently in process instead of wait a few minutes for it to pass, showing her anger management issues. . . so in honor of her, I have designed a commemorative bike-tube sticker straight from one of her interviews.
You can buy yours today and I promise to fork over a portion of the proceeds to help pay off all our operation costs from this year and then if there’s anything left over it will roll over into the fund for next year. (Delivery for stickers estimated to begin 6/23)
But going back to all the media coverage! It was a little cray-cray for a moment there. We literally reached meme status. I mean there was a fake article going around on a couple sites . It states ridiculous claims such as: “Their “pre-ride” ritual involves watching adult films and consuming large quantities of hard liquor, and cocaine. After reaching dangerous levels of intoxication, the bicyclists descend upon the helpless berg for a night of unbridled, lawless debauchery.” [source link] As awesome as this sounds, (don’t do drugs, drink and ride bikes kids) our bike ride was really lame to what this description makes it out to be. The article also included every other bit of made up detail like the wrong name for the police commissioner (there’s no one working for the entire county named Jeff Adams), according to our social media stats that’s all wrong. I tried to read another entry of her’s, but she started talking about facts and backing it up with the Bible so I had to stop. On another site they seem to have been a spin-off of the first. But it was less opinionated content and slightly harder to immediately determine as satire. My favorite part on this one was, “...anyone found to be participating in this year’s World Naked Bike Ride will be arrested on the spot, and charged with felonious indecent exposure. If convicted, the criminals could face a minimum of one year in prison, and will be forced to register as a sex offender.”
My focus on site was social media coverage! Armed with my ipad mini, a wifi hotspot device, my cellphone and my camera I spent the beautiful 67 degree evening hyperfocused on tweeting and facebooking all the greatest of WNBR coverage. This year I tried out an app on both my android phone and ipad called Sprout Social. I signed up for it the morning of the event and used the free trial so I don’t know how the paid versions are any better, but what I did like about it is that you can add “keywords” to search for (aka hashtags) so I loaded it up with key phrases like “pdxwnbr, worldnakedbikeride, nakedbikeride” and things like that. Throughout the evening I could check up and answer any questions people may have and send messages. The organizers also used the app GroupMe this year for the first time. This app was phenomenal. We set up two separate channels, one for the admin and one for the mechanics/marshals – and it made communication between volunteers and organizers so easy. There was one incident towards the beginning of the ride were a guy showed up at the volunteer station with his chain jammed in his derailleur. I had no tools there so I sent a text on the mechanic channel asking if there were any mechanics near by and a moment later got a reply saying that someone could come in 2 minutes. The system worked!
On a personal level, the WNBR has always been a very important milestone in my Portland history. Back in May 2009, I attended my very first SHIFT monthly meeting. I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re a charismatic cult leader, if you could do me a favor and just avoid me. . . because that SHIFT meeting. . . I just stuck. I mean, hook, line and sinker. They were looking for volunteers to help out at the 2009 WNBR and that was how I ended up decorating the dance party location for a “Where the Wild Things Are” theme. It reminds me of my inauguration into the bike community – of how I started actually making friends here in Portland. So while the ride is protesting oil dependency, promoting body positivity and highlighting cyclist vulnerability, to me it is also celebrating Portland, bikes and good friends.