We are avid fans of women’s professional cycling and took the opportunity to combine two of our favorite things on June 5.
This is my second time riding bare-chested in Philadelphia and my first impression of Philadelphia as a progressive and open-minded city was only strengthened from my experience at the race.
We both spent four hours bare-chested, riding all around the race course and stopping to watch the peloton pass every 15 minutes or so. We parked on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania and rode across the city proper, using the green bike lanes on South Street, winding our way through neighborhoods, to find our way eventually to the Schuylkill River Trail which we used to ride all the way north to Manayunk neighborhood where the race finished. We did not make it up the Manayunk Wall because of time, but we saw the bottom of it.
Point being, we were all over the city on a busy day and enjoyed a quiet, peaceful afternoon. I received exactly zero negative comments.
Two separate college-aged women stopped me to chat and offer support, one said she was a rower and asked to pose for a photo. (Bare-chested rowing team? It’s all about the aerodynamics, my boy. Aero-dy-namics. ~ Tortoise, Bugs Bunny.) Several gentleman stopped and asked questions about the legality of bare-chestedness and also gave their support. One man asked what I was protesting. I said, “Nothing. It’s legal, there’s nothing to protest.” And he laughed and answered, “Oh, I can think of a lot of things to protest.” Which I thought was a great answer. He hung out with us for about ten minutes until the race went by, said his goodbyes and good lucks and went on.
I did have one police officer stop and ask me where my shirt was, but when I asked gently if he was going around asking men where their shirts were, he held his hands up like, “Guilty as charged,” and laughed and pulled away. It was funny more than anything, as you can tell from my reaction.
On the way back to Penn campus we also had a group of about ten teenage boys on bicycles, maybe 13-16 years old, join us in a swarming sort of curiosity for about two minutes, machine gunning questions and generally crowding around us. They warned me I would be arrested and I assured them I would not be. Jeff explained that Pennsylvania law treats men and women equally. I imagine it was something to see for bystanders, but we both answered their questions calmly and asked them to be careful of other trail users, and one of the group spoke up and reminded his friends not to touch me, which none of them had shown any indication of trying to do, but I appreciated the maturity and said so. Their curiosity satisfied, they slowed and went on their way, and left us to go on ours.
A funny moment came on South Street, when a car pulled over a little bit ahead of us and parked squarely in the bike lane. It was a new, white Mercedes and we had to ride out in a traffic lane to get around it. I slowed down and said into the open window (with a tone, I admit), “You’re parked in the bike lane.” The driver glanced up with an attitude of his own, saw me there bare-chested and defiant, and was like, “Dafuq?”
I shook my head in indignant frustration and continued on, only realizing a beat later what that must have looked like to the driver. With a grin cracking across my face I turned to Jeff who just shrugged and said, “Hey. Right is right.”