When protest organizer Droston walked up to the police car to explain Santa Fe's nudity ordinance, he wore only a thong, shoes and sunglasses.
Behind him, about 20 cyclists readied themselves to carry a message through Santa Fe's tourist hot spots. They had painted their bodies with slogans such as "Less Gas, More Ass," and "Fuel free fool." Droston's wife outlined her nipples with flowers. The first World Naked Bike Ride in New Mexico prepared to launch on the afternoon of Saturday, June 19. They intended to criticize the United States' dependence on oil and to exhibit the vulnerability of the human body as it moves through traffic. But they were also testing the limits of the state's nudity laws while they were at it.
Droston leaned into the officer's window. He was friendly as he spoke, and the words "primary genital area" came up. In the state's capital, front genitals must remain out of view to avoid indecent exposure, but male and female nipples are OK, as are both genders' butts. Santa Fe’s policy echoes state law.
The officer drove away after warning cyclists not to block the roadway in the parking lot near the South Capitol Rail Runner station. Minutes before, a security truck had driven up and honked its horn before departing.
The bicyclists traveled in a pack down Cerrillos, taking up an entire lane. Workers in nearby shops gawked and cheered. Cars slowed as they passed so passengers could snap shots with their cell phones of riders in varying states of undress. Some protesters wore bikini tops and shorts. Some wore full cycling gear. Victor Cactus donned only a sock.
As they approached the Plaza, tourists whooped and took photos. Brunch crowds on restaurant patios put down their forks and turned their attention to the semi-naked ride rolling past. "Save the oil!” the riders shouted. “We need it for spandex!"
“Save the Oil! We need it for Spandex!”
Protesters at the World Naked Bike Ride in Santa Fe
Vendors on the Plaza chuckled. A man stepped into the street waving his arms back and forth. He said the cyclists couldn't ride through the Plaza. So they walked, prolonging the view.
The demonstrators stopped on the steps of the Capitol, and passersby gathered with cameras. A show of hands indicated that only a few of the riders were from Santa Fe. Most had come up from Albuquerque, where organizer Droston lives. He put the ride in the capital because Albuquerque's nudity laws are more restrictive.
Cyclists embark on the World Naked Bike Ride in cities around the globe, and this year, London hosted the largest daytime ride with around 1,000 participants. Albuquerque resident Cactus said he’s ridden in a few of them. He placed New Mexico’s fledgling attempt somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of turnout. The four-mile ride certainly wasn’t met with controversy. "All I saw was one mother covering her child's eyes," he said.
Droston said the first naked ride in the state was a huge success. "There is a need in this part of the U.S.,” he added. He and his wife would have been happy "even it if was just the two of us.”