Bellingham's fifth annual Naked Bike Ride is planned for Friday, June 7, with a colorful mix of serious protest, body paint, fun, and skimpy to no clothing.
Zoie Gaidos, an organizer and a participant since the local ride began, said that while nudity catches the eye of bystanders, the ride's message includes such important elements as support for a bicycle-friendly culture and opposition to dependence on fossil fuels.
Yet the riders' colorful outfits, painted bodies, and, for some, nudity, adds levity and artistic flair, she said. About 50 to 75 people participate each year, without about a dozen at least partly unclothed.
"It's a fun thing for most people," Gaidos said. "On the whole, it's been well-received."
Nude bike rides are already established community events in San Francisco and the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle. The Bellingham ride is part of a worldwide movement that began nine years ago and now has events in more than 70 cities and some 20 countries.
Gaidos, 25, comes to the bike ride with education and interest in environmental issues. A graduate in environmental science from Huxley College of the Environment, she works at an organic farm in Everson. For her, the nude bike ride is one of various tactics and actions to foster what she calls a "culture of resistance."
A few riders were arrested by Western Washington University police in 2010, but relations with Bellingham police generally have been amicable, she said.
Bellingham Police Lt. Mike Johnston said officers have met with organizers to go over guidelines for the event.
"If we work with the people, it becomes less confrontational," he said. "Cooperation goes a lot further."
State law defines the misdemeanor of indecent exposure as intentionally making any "open and obscene exposure" knowing it's "likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm." For police to cite an unclothed biker, they need a complaining witness who is willing, if needed, to testify in court, Johnston said. If someone does complain, the offending rider will be given a chance to resolve the situation by putting on clothes.
Gaidos said organizers are asking riders to respect the "boundaries" of other bicyclists and of bystanders, and clothed riders will act as go-betweens if tensions develop.
"The human body isn't inherently offensive," she said. "We've not trying to maliciously offend."
Three fully clothed police officers on bikes plan to accompany the ride.
Johnston said organizers have been told that riders will be warned, and cited if need be, if they violate traffic laws, such as ignoring stop lights or riding more than two abreast on a roadway. A complaining witness isn't needed to cite someone for traffic violations.
"There's no compromise on the rules of the road," Johnston said.
What: Fifth annual Bellingham Naked Bike Ride.
Where: To find the starting point, follow the signs near Astor and I streets, one block from West Holly Street.
When: Participants embark at 4 p.m. to ride through downtown and possibly to Fairhaven. Riders will gather for a dance afterward. Riders will meet from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. for body painting and legal briefing.
Reach DEAN KAHN at 360-715-2291 or firstname.lastname@example.org .