The Green Scene

World Naked Bike Ride cycles ‘round again

Yikes! on bikes: The World Naked Bike Ride returns Saturday, June 9.

Sunny Keach says he’s not the organizer behind Asheville’s upcoming World Naked Bike Ride. Aside from taking on the task of promoting the event, he’s just going along for the ride, so to speak. Scheduled for June 9, Asheville’s WNBR is one of at least 70 scheduled worldwide to protest oil dependency. Even in Britain’s high-fashion metropolis, the majority of the 800 cyclists who turned out for WNBR London last year rode sans threads. The annual event has been happening since 2004.

“We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity, and exposing the vulnerability faced by cyclists and pedestrians on our streets,” the event’s organizers proclaim on the WNBR Web site (www.worldnakedbikeride.org). “As well as the negative consequences we all face due to dependence on oil, and other forms of nonrenewable energy.”

Keach advocates biking “bare as you dare” during the Asheville ride, a phrase he leaves open to interpretation. For the record: Public nudity is illegal here in North Carolina.

Events like WNBR have a seemingly magnetic pull in bike-friendly cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, where cyclists routinely gather by the hundreds for Critical Mass rides to protest fossil-fuel dependency or advocate for bicyclists’ rights to the road. But so far, Asheville’s WNBR hasn’t quite hit a winning streak.

“There was nobody actually naked, and there were way more cops than there were participants,” Keach says of a past WNBR effort in Asheville. Some 46 riders reportedly turned out in 2004, with a few stragglers joining in along the way.

As momentum for alternative transportation builds worldwide, WNBR’s non-organizer hopes to drum up enough enthusiasm to make 2007 the year that Asheville’s World Naked Bike Ride really takes off.

To attend the World Naked Bike Ride, show up outside the French Broad Food Co-op on Biltmore Avenue in Asheville at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 9.

Turning energy policy around

Assuming business as usual, North Carolina’s electricity consumption could increase by more than 20 percent by 2020, according to a report released by nonprofit Environmental Defense. That translates to more fuel imports, more coal-fired unit proposals and an even greater focus on nuclear facilities.

“Unless” may be the watchword at an upcoming panel discussion on energy-policy reform organized by the Asheville chapter of Democracy for America. The event will feature nonprofit representatives Ulla-Britt Reeves of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Avram Friedman of the Canary Coalition, as well as City Council member Brownie Newman.

Newman, who also works as an outreach director for the Conservation Council of North Carolina, says he’ll discuss Asheville City Council’s recent adoption of citywide carbon-emission-reduction goals and LEED-building standards. Then there’s the issue of energy policies now under debate at the state level.

Proposed legislation in the state House calls for establishing a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard for North Carolina, which would mandate utilities to shift 15 percent of their generation capacity to cleaner power sources.

“While most people agree that … legislators want to establish that standard, the [utilities] industry is saying that their approval will be on condition of approval for new facilities,” Newman notes. “The process has gotten bogged down as a result.”

The underlying question the panel discussion hopes to address, according to event organizer Doug Gibson, is “how can we stop all new power plants?”

Gibson thinks it’s a good time to ask, given Progress Energy’s recent announcement that it would not appeal the town of Woodfin’s decision to deny a permit for the construction of a new oil-fired facility.

“It’s like a game of whack-a-mole,” Gibson says. “We may have stopped [the Woodfin plant] this time, but unless we do something more, another natural gas (or coal, or nuclear) plant will spring up somewhere, throwing pollution into the atmosphere and adding to the planet’s already dangerous levels of carbon dioxide.”

The free discussion panel will be held on Wednesday, June 6 at 7 p.m. at the North Asheville Library. Visit www.dfalink.com/asheville for more. RSVP is encouraged.

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