As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out in one of his comedy routines, the beauty of clothing is that adjustments and improvements can always be made. But in the case of nudity, no tweaks are possible. Essentially the naked person is saying, this is the best that I can do.
In the classic episode The Apology, the distinction is made between good naked and bad naked - they were not talking about morality, only aesthetics. And when you get a large group who come from the general population and not the world of modeling or body building, you are sure to get plenty of bad naked. I know there are those that defend all bodies as beautiful, but I think in this case, I side with Seinfeld over artistic idealists.
Appropriate or inappropriate, legal or illegal, good naked or bad naked, public nudity is sure to draw attention, which is just what demonstrators get when "clothing optional" is part of the equation. See more of my photos of this event here.
However, anyone inclined to this type of strategy to make a political point had better realize that what will be remembered is often only the nudity. Lively discussions will occur during and after such a protest, but mostly over the details of how naked any participants were and how various body parts were covered or decorated. In fact, after the members of this ride left Washington Square Park, I showed a number of friends some of the photos I had taken - there was surprise regarding the rider who had painted "Oil is dead" on his back. Apparently the message and numerous signs regarding oil did not make itself clear.
Many observers will likely believe that this ride is just an expression of personal freedom or wild reckless abandon. There is an element of that, of course, once an event like this is under way. It is doubtful a ride like this will be dominated by the shy or prudish. The event does become an exhibitionist theater on wheels. However, the World Naked Bike Ride is an international annual event "to celebrate cycling and the human body. The ride demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and is a protest against oil dependency."
The demonstration went smoothly in the park - there was plenty of reveling in the park's fountain. The police were quite tolerant, even though many of the male participants were completely nude and technically breaking the law. One officer was making his compulsory rounds chanting an obligatory "Put your clothes back on." The event is best served if riders keep their eyes on the road and observers keep their eyes on the signs :)