Hundreds of naked — or as naked as they want to be — cyclists will roll through downtown Friday evening for the 10th annual Bellingham World Naked Bike Ride.
The goal is to protest the "indecent exposure" to fossil fuels, redefine cultural images of the body, and highlight bicyclists' vulnerability, organizers said.
The Bellingham ride, which is open to the public, is among those occurring in more than 70 cities and 20 countries, according to event organizers.
Last year, about 350 people participated in the Bellingham ride.
The event begins at 3 p.m. at The Hub Community Bike Shop, 903 1/2 N. State St., where riders will gather for body painting before hitting the streets at 6 p.m.
The ride will cover most downtown streets including State, Holly, Forest, Prospect and Flora, as well as Railroad and Cornwall avenues. It will end back at The Hub for a dance party that will last until 10 p.m.
Although the environment and bicyclist safety are among the reasons for the ride, Zachary Robertson, one of the organizers, focused on body image.
"It's not going along with how society views the body. It's countering it and creating a new vision of what we are," Robertson said.
That includes the shame that people are taught to feel about their bodies when they can't attain the ideal body — and one that's sexualized — as shown by the media, according to Robertson.
For example, when Robertson invites people to take part in the naked bike ride, the vast majority of those who are older than 50 tell him, "No one wants to see that."
His reply to them: "You're beautiful. Society is sick. What will we do about that?"
"That's been really important to me," Robertson said. "It breaks my heart time and time again."
Bellingham Police will be at the event to ensure public safety. Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said organizers have been working with police for a while.
"They're very good about self-monitoring. They have some safety personnel that they've designated within their group," Vander Yacht said, adding that the riders' route works with the traffic flow.
Motorists who are behind the riders might have to wait for one extra light cycle, he added.
Friday also is the Downtown Art Walk for June, which begins at 6 p.m. as well.
Police are reminding the public about both events.
"We're just cautioning people. This is the route. There is a Downtown Art Walk that night," Vander Yacht said. "We just really want people to be aware so they can make a choice to avoid the area if they don't want to be subjected to that. That seems to be the best solution, so everyone gets the opportunity to express themselves the way they see fit."
For people considering joining the Naked Bike Ride, Robertson advised: "It's not about sexualization. So come and be respectful. Every respectful person is welcome."
As for the dress code, so to speak: "People can wear as little or as much as they want to at the naked bide ride," Robertson said.
And don't forget the sunscreen.