WITHOUT EVER having to look skyward, if you're in Philadelphia around dusk Sunday you may see a full moon - or possibly even several hundred.
The anomaly won't be astronomical, but anatomical - as Philadelphia, the birthplace of freedom, hosts its first naked bike ride.
A worldwide phenomenon that has touched more than 70 cities since its inception in 2004, the event, which encourages participants to "bare as you dare," is intended to draw attention both to fuel dependency and to the fragility and beauty of a bicycle's engine - the human body.
Clifford Greer, 30, lead organizer of the Philly Naked Bike Ride, said that he wants the event to solidify bikers' places in the minds of those who use the roads and those who manage them.
"The community seems to have bestowed use of the roads to drivers," he said. "We would like to occupy space in the minds of drivers and the government as well, and a bunch of nude people on bikes is kind of an impossible thing to miss."
In 2007, Greer, who does audiovisual work and is also a stagehand and lighting coordinator, heard of the World Naked Bike Ride, in which cyclists in cities across the world unite to ride nude.
He wished the event would come to Philadelphia, but when his hopes didn't materialize, he and some friends decided to take matters into their own hands in March and organize a Philly ride.
Although Philadelphia's ride doesn't coincide with the world ride this year, the event is still linked to the international organization because it follows two main rules: It has a message against fuel dependency, and it does not require a minimum amount of clothing.
The meeting location remains undisclosed. He said it will be sent by e-mail today or tomorrow to the more than 875 people who have signed up to receive updates via the Web site, PhillyNaked BikeRide.org.
The route will be communicated to riders who show up. Greer said that it's an easy four-mile ride, on urban terrain with traffic, that will take place around dusk.
Philadelphia Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said that the department would be guided by "what we see and observe," and by community reaction to the ride.
"It could fall under open lewdness, depending on who's there to view it, if there's children around or if someone who is offended observes it," he said. "It's going to be a judgment call on the police that respond if they are called to the area."
Greer said that if a rider has a confrontation with a police officer who "interprets decency laws in a way that makes them tell us to put clothes on," the rider should be calm and do whatever the cop says.
"My opinion about nudity is that our laws allow decency to be interpreted by whoever the enforcer is," Greer said. "But perhaps decency should be interpreted by the people in your environment and the community.
"We are creating a community that says, 'This isn't indecent.' "
Still, Greer recommended that all riders bring the "legal minimum."
"So if they have a problem, they're at least not stranded naked," he said.
The group also will provide on-site body-painting supplies at the meeting location, so that riders can paint themselves or their friends.
"Body paint does a lot in transforming an otherwise nude person into someone that doesn't appear so nude," he said.
Alex Doty, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said that the event has been hard to miss in the cycling community.
The coalition will have bicycle ambassadors on site and in uniform encouraging people to wear helmets.
"I think it will be fun to see who turns out and what the reactions are of the people along the route," Doty said.
According to Doty, the number of bicyclists in Center City doubled between 2005 and 2008. An estimated 36,000 commuters in the city bike to work at least once a month, and an estimated 300,000 bike more than once a month in the summer, he said.
He believes that Sunday's naked riders can serve as an extremely visible example of the freedom and danger faced daily by urban cyclists.
"When you're on a bike, you feel both liberated and exposed," he said. "This is a metaphor."
He hopes the ride will encourage participants to bike more regularly.
"I would just say that anybody who has the courage to get out there on a bike naked, I hope they're also willing to bike to work and can muster the courage to tackle any Philly street on a bike," Doty said.
Participants can ride anything "people-powered," from rollerblades to unicycles, but Greer hopes that the event also encourages people to be comfortable with the most basic form of transportation - the human body.
"I think a lot of people have fear that they have a nontraditional nude appearance," he said. "If we're able to see that we're not the only unconventionally beautiful people, then maybe we'll begin to feel that conventional beauty is not so important to us."