Cheeky cyclists expose stark dangers on roads
Bare-it-all bike ride aims to raise visibility
CYCLING through a city stark naked would intimidate the hardiest of souls -- but try doing it in the freezing rain of an Irish summer dawn.
But neither the torrential rain nor the bracing temperatures deterred the 56 volunteers who bared what they dared for a naked bike ride through Cork at 5.30am yesterday.
The 'bare-it-all' bike ride, which is an international phenomenon, aims to remind motorists that cyclists are nothing but frail flesh and bone, and also to encourage people to use less oil by opting for human-powered transport.
And getting into the altogether is certainly guaranteed to make cyclists more visible, judging by the reaction of passers-by and motorists who largely stared and whooped and gave the cavalcade the thumbs-up.
Nudity is encouraged but not compulsory. And while some of the female participants opted for the modesty of knickers or thongs, other women were happy to follow in the tradition of Lady Godiva and bare all to raise awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists.
Meanwhile, most of the men were happy to go the full monty.
Naked bike rides, which started in 2001, are growing in popularity and now take place annually in 25 countries and 70 cities, with up to 13,000 taking part in the latest event in Portland, Oregon in the US.
In Cork yesterday, it was all paint, sponges and determination at the day's first stop -- the pre-ride painting party.
Body-painting expert Martina spent much of the night getting the cyclists ready and she confessed it was challenging working on "round, moving canvases".
"I said to a girl 'okay, I am going to do your top' and she thought she could sit down and I said 'not really because your bum is painted'."
Once stripped, painted and ready for the road, the cyclists crossed to Cork Opera House for a photo shoot, before pedalling down the quays and out towards Blackrock Castle by the river.
The ride, which was scheduled early out of respect for people's sensibilities, left its participants soaking and freezing -- but exuberant.
Organiser Joe Collins said the reaction from the public was extremely positive and he was pleased with the turnout, given the poor weather conditions.
"The reaction from people was wonderful. It was just hilarious. I came around a few corners and people looked twice and put their thumbs up -- people beeping horns, people shaking their fists in a good way. The first event in London was in the early morning as well. They had 60 people in a city of how many million people. We had 56 in the end this morning. Hopefully next year we will meet the 200 mark."
Ronan O'Brien, a 22-year-old graduate of University College Cork, said the event was memorable.
"It was fantastic. I don't mind getting naked for a good cause.
"It was cold and wet but once you got going it actually was quite refreshing."
The Naked Bike Ride was organised by a group of cycling activists as part of the Cork Cycling Arts Festival.