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Naked Bike Ride to roll through downtown Bellingham on Friday

Barbara Plaskett paints Shaylene Baring on June 5, 2015, before the annual Naked Bike Ride that starts at the Hub Community Bike Shop in Bellingham. This year’s ride is Friday, June 3.
Barbara Plaskett paints Shaylene Baring on June 5, 2015, before the annual Naked Bike Ride that starts at the Hub Community Bike Shop in Bellingham. This year’s ride is Friday, June 3. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Hundreds of cyclists are expected to descend on the downtown area in varying degrees of clothing Friday, June 3, for the annual Bellingham Naked World Bike Ride.

The event, which is free and open to the public, kicks off at 3 p.m. at the Hub Community Bike Shop, 903 1/2 N. State St., where riders can be body painted before the ride itself, which begins at 6.

It’s important that we have diverse age groups and diverse body types because it’s the reality of it that we’re going for.

Zachary Robertson, Bellingham World Naked Bike Ride organizer

The ride will take cyclists throughout downtown, covering most surface streets like State, Holly, Forest, Prospect and Flora, as well as Railroad and Cornwall avenues. The entire ride is about 3.5 miles and usually lasts about one hour, said Zachary Robertson, one of the organizers.

Started in 2008, the Naked Bike Ride is one of many organized in cities worldwide. The local iteration, Robertson said, is meant to bring awareness to a variety of issues, including body image, cyclist safety, the environment and the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Doing the ride with no clothes on helps to turn heads, Robertson said.

“We have all these hidden and accepted norms in our society that don’t really make sense,” he said. “When we go against those, conversations happen.”

But being naked — which is not a requirement to participate in the ride — also comes with legal risks. The Bellingham Police Department will take a similar approach this year to past rides: Riders will not be cited unless someone files a report against a specific rider, said Lt. Bob Vander Yacht, a police spokesman.

One complaint was filed against a rider last year, but the charges were later dropped.

Officers will be assigned to the event, and materials explaining the state’s indecent exposure law have been given to the ride’s organizers, Vander Yacht said.

Between 20 and 40 riders showed up at the first ride in 2008, Robertson said. Last year, turnout neared 300.

“We invite everyone to ride regardless of where people feel they sit in relationship to the ideals of body types that are set forward,” Robertson said. “It’s important that we have diverse age groups and diverse body types because it’s the reality of it that we’re going for.”

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

If you go

What: Bellingham World Naked Bike Ride

When: Friday, June 3; optional body painting is at 3 p.m., ride starts at 6

Where: Begins at the Hub Community Bike Shop, 903 1/2 N. State St.

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