The idea is to get attention, and also to illustrate the vulnerability of cyclists as they navigate roads predominantly occupied by vehicles. Houston saw 313 traffic crashes involving bicycles in 2021, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, which said those collisions caused 12 deaths and 43 serious injuries.
That's why a group of bike riders will be naked, or close to it, during a pedaling protest scheduled for Saturday night in the heart of the city.
Houston's version of the World Naked Bike Ride will start at 8 p.m. Saturday at Super Happy Fun Land, a performing arts theater in East Downtown. Event organizer David Collins said the 12-mile route with four planned stops will wind through downtown, Midtown, the Museum District and the Montrose area before finishing a few hours later back at the starting point.
"We do say ‘bare as you dare' ... but nobody has to be naked. There's no pressure," Collins said. "It's a matter of how far you're willing to go to express your frustration at the continued slaughter of bicyclists and pedestrians in the U.S. and elsewhere, especially in Houston."
The World Naked Bike Ride began in the early 2000s and is held annually in cities across the United States and the globe. There have been Houston rides every year since 2011, with the exception of 2020, Collins said.
Public nudity is illegal in Houston, and Collins said event participants have had run-ins with law enforcement in the past. But he said he's aware of only one ticket being issued and no arrests since the Houston event began, and that ticket ended up being dismissed, Collins said.
The Houston Police Department did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment about the planned protest.
A spokesperson for Houston BCycle, a bike-sharing nonprofit created by the city, said the organization is not involved in the World Naked Bike Ride but supports the spirit of it. The annual event advocates for increased cycling infrastructure and personal freedom while opposing car culture and the use of fossil fuels and their contributions to climate change, according to Collins.
"Houston BCycle is always in favor of group bike rides, especially when the intention is to highlight Houston's continuing need for bike infrastructure," said Mary DeBauche, the communications manager for the nonprofit. "We believe the best way to experience Houston is on a bike."
Collins said cycling enthusiasts like himself are pleased with the progress Houston has made in recent years to make riding a bike a safer, more accessible transportation option. The city has added about 400 miles of bike lanes under the Houston Bike Plan, adopted in 2017, and its trail network along the bayous is gradually expanding and becoming more interconnected.
"But we still have a long way to go," Collins said.
The point of the protest, which is open to anyone who wishes to participate, is to call attention to that notion. Collins said Houston's World Naked Bike Ride has included as many as 75 riders in previous years, and he hopes at least that many participate Saturday.
Participants will begin gathering at Super Happy Fun Land, 3801 Polk St., at about 6 p.m., Collins said, for a pre-ride pep rally and to decorate themselves as well as their bikes. After the ride starts two hours later, stops are planned for Under the Radar Brewery (1506 Truxillo St.), Lola's Depot (2327 Grant St.), Notsuoh (314 Main St.) and Fitzcarraldo (3517 Navigation Blvd.).
"It not only provides an opportunity to take a break and get something to drink but also to spread the word about why we're doing this crazy thing," Collins said.
Riders will cover up while at the businesses, according to Collins. As for their attire or lack thereof while pedaling on their bikes, that will be up to each participant and potentially local police.
"If a whole bunch of people are doing it, it's hard for a handful of police officers to do anything about it," Collins said. "If they say, ‘Y'all better put your clothes on,' part of the World Naked Bike Ride culture is that we comply, at least temporarily."