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Tread Marks

Naked Bikers Descend on Seattle Center

Naked bicycling just isn't as shocking as it used to be. These days, thanks to those pioneering nudists at the Fremont Solstice Parade (Mark your calendars: June 19), naked two-wheeled revelry elicits barely a yawn.

But the World Naked Bike Ride (motto: "Yes, we are really going to do it") wants to change all that. They're planning a daylong ride (starting--where else--at Gas Works Park in Fremont) across the city on Saturday, June 12. From Gas Works, the bikers, some wearing body paint, plan to travel along the Burke-Gilman Trail, across the Fremont Bridge into Queen Anne, and along Westlake Avenue to Seattle Center's International Fountain.

For the last few years, the Seattle Police Department has had a relatively hands-off policy toward Fremont's naked bikers. (SPD did arrest two cyclists in 1998, only to drop the charges due to lack of evidence. Lewd conduct, it turns out, is pretty difficult to prove, because someone has to be offended. Nudity alone isn't enough.) "Generally, we don't do anything unless someone complains," SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb says.

That may hold true as long as the naked bikers stay in the tolerant hippie confines of Fremont. But Queen Anne and Seattle Center could be a different story. The planned route meanders through SPD's West Precinct, which has never had to deal with hordes of naked bikers. And it has a new precinct captain, Linda Pierce, who may not share the North Precinct's laissez-faire philosophy. (Pierce did not return a phone call seeking comment.) Seattle Center, meanwhile, is a major family destination, though it's unclear whether the naked riders will make it to the fountain unimpeded. How Center security will respond is an open question; Center spokesman Perry Cooper did not return calls seeking comment.

What are the naked cyclists trying to prove--beyond their right to "go as bare as you dare," that is? Believe it or not, there are political divisions in the naked-bike-riding community. Ride organizer Conrad Smith, of Vancouver, BC (a city that has seen seven nude rides to date), says the World Naked riders are "much more political than the solstice riders." Smith calls the World Naked Bike Ride "an offshoot of Critical Mass," a guerrilla bike event at which bicyclists clog streets at rush hour, stopping traffic. "This is a celebration of bicycles and a protest against oil dependency." Oh, yeah--and "a celebration of human individuality and the human form." We'll see about that. With 60 percent of Americans now overweight, maybe they should do a little less celebrating and a lot more concealing.

barnett@thestranger.com amy@thestranger.com

 

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