Two wheels, no clothes: Bicycling protesters in West Seattle

September 6, 2008 at 3:55 pm | In Environment, Seen around town, West Seattle news | 30 Comments

nakedbicyclists.jpg

Karen Berge was a little startled to see this sight in her neighborhood a short time ago (the photo was taken at 36th/Dawson) – a group of mostly unclad bicyclists. We don’t think this photo shows anything X-rated; and we’re pretty sure (from what one guy has written on his back – BURN FAT, NOT OIL – visible in a larger version of the photo) that it’s got something to do with this protest (warning, link includes some actual nudity; bottom line to the protest, pun not intended, under the umbrella of the “World Naked Bike Ride,” is to call attention to what “the dangers of oil dependence” and the dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians). Karen said they were last seen “heading north”; makes sense since as we were about to publish this, we got word they’d just gone through the Admiral District (past Click! Design That Fits, WSB sponsor, who sent that tip). 6:18 PM UPDATE: After posting this and leaving the house for a while, received reports of the bicyclists being spotted pretty much all over West Seattle – Alki, Lincoln Park, etc., plus a few more photos, like this one taken by Bill Schrier as they pedaled north on California through the Admiral intersection:

admiralschrier2.jpg

ADDED 7:06 PM: And here’s a photo from California/Oregon, courtesy of Mac, followed by some info our original spotter, Karen, found online:

bikersmac.jpg

Karen found a wiki all about the ride; even an online flyer. It says this was the last of three such protest rides in Seattle this year. Side note — almost everyone who reported sightings included some variation of the line we almost used as our first headline on this post – “West Seattle, or Fremont?”!

30 Comments

  1. ummm…the photo doesn’t show anything, but the link sure does. No big deal to me, but might be for others ;)

    Comment by GenHillOne — 4:11 pm September 6, 2008 #

  2. They just came by my place, and received some cheers!

    Comment by krystal — 4:18 pm September 6, 2008 #

  3. saw them cruising through lincoln park near the pool half an hour ago!

    Comment by lincolnparkwalker — 5:43 pm September 6, 2008 #

  4. thanks GHO, I meant to put something like NSFW on there to warn people — posted this just before heading out of the house for a while, going to add a few more photos (if not too revealing) sent by other folks who spotted the bicyclists …

    Comment by WSB — 6:14 pm September 6, 2008 #

  5. Ha! I hope they got sunburnt in places that will hurt! I can’t see any helmets on them. (I’m no prude by the way, just having fun)

    Comment by JH — 6:22 pm September 6, 2008 #

  6. JH…I was just thinkin’…hope they used SPF 50 – lol

    Comment by JanS — 6:46 pm September 6, 2008 #

  7. Good one Jan! I wonder how many cars crashed when they saw the bikers…

    Comment by JH — 7:19 pm September 6, 2008 #

  8. We spotted those folks coming down Alaska when we were headed back from Alki – they appeared to be scantily dressed from where we were, but we didn’t get too close a look because the light changed.

    I got nothing against the no pants cyclists, but I sure wish they’d cover their… brains. Helmets, people, helmets.

    Comment by pam — 9:05 pm September 6, 2008 #

  9. Right ON!! You can get cited for biking without a helmet.

    Comment by sensitive nulu — 9:14 pm September 6, 2008 #

  10. I saw them cruising down Alki Ave past the Statue of Liberty about 4:30pm heading west toward the Light House – wonder where they ended up?

    Comment by MargeC — 9:29 pm September 6, 2008 #

  11. Well, it could have been worse. This could have involved the statue of liberty’s skirt. Whew. Glad she was safely in the ground at that time.

    Comment by JH — 9:56 pm September 6, 2008 #

  12. When I saw them, several were wearing helmets. And, they were all wearing shoes.

    Comment by homedk — 10:07 pm September 6, 2008 #

  13. I don’t get it. Why don’t these poeple get picked up for public nudity!! If it is okay for these jerks to ride around West Seattle and express their sexuality, then why isn’t it alright for some jerk-off to stand naked in the bushes at Hiawatha while watching the little kids play soccer. Is’nt this why we have laws? Where were the police?

    Comment by BB — 3:04 pm September 7, 2008 #

  14. [Points and laughs at BB]

    Comment by austin — 3:22 pm September 7, 2008 #

  15. Little did I know when I planned my son’s 1st birthday party at Lincoln Park, that we’d get such a suprise! They stopped right near our picnic tables by the restrooms for a pit stop & some group photos. Luckily it was mostly toddlers and adults at our gathering, so no one was *too* worried about the full frontal nudity in our midst.

    Party supplies & food – $100. Baby gifts $50. The look on my mother-in-law’s face when she saw the nude cyclists – PRICELESS!

    Comment by GK — 11:25 am September 8, 2008 #

  16. Hi everybody,

    Our small ride (nine riders) made our relatively short ride (10.5 miles) through West Seattle on Saturday. Usually our rides are about 15 – 20 miles and some have lasted as long as six hours. On our more popular rides we get as many as 80 riders. WNBR is an international event, with affiliated rides taking place all over the world. http://wiki.worldnakedbikeride.org Portland, Oregon reportedly had 2,000 riders last June. Chicago had about 1,000.

    Our theme was “Human-powered transport: Burn Fat, Not Oil!”
    The primary purpose of the ride is to promote cycling. We attract newbie cyclists as well as more experienced riders, from those in top shape to those is less than top shape, from 13 years old to 85 years old. Check out http://tinyurl.com/6gxx56

    We notified the police beforehand about our ride and they made clear to us that we were to follow the rules of the road. SPD wants proper notification because sometimes people call them about our ride. We saw the police near the special event at the Statue of Liberty.

    I thought most of our riders were wearing helmets. It is important to follow bicycle safety guidelines to set a good example. http://tinyurl.com/6zscfz

    This was our route:
    http://tinyurl.com/mycde (Wiki page of WS event)
    http://tinyurl.com/48rv7y (Google map with points of interest)
    We did not stop at the Statue of Liberty.

    BB, why do you think we are jerks? If you ever met us I think you would agreed that we are some of the nicest people you have ever met. The vast majority of people who saw us were very happy and surprised to see us. One wedding party invited us to participate in their event near the North Alki overlook. That was really cool!

    I’m concerned that you think this ride is about sex and you are drawing analogies to sexual predators preying on children. That is a totally over the top troubling statement. If people always equate nudity with sexuality, that can lead to a lot of conflicts in one’s personal life and can get people into a heap of trouble. But I know behind every statement that is down on the human body there is probably a pretty troubling story that could help inform why someone would say something like that.

    SPD can make arrests when people are being obscene and lewd and they will not hesitate to respond. If you see something like you described at Hiawatha, obviously SPD needs to be called. Neighbors should also be notified to keep an eye out. If that activity is an ongoing issue Parks & Recreation should be contacted and perhaps the bushes can be lifted to stop that kind of activity. Its been done before in other Parks and it is very effective. Hope that helps.

    Very best,

    Daniel Johnson

    Comment by Daniel Johnson — 11:52 am September 8, 2008 #

  17. Right on BB! FYI, They showed up at the Statue of Liberty festivities as well. Lots of families present, Cub Scouts as well. I asked the police why they were not arrested. They said they were instructed not to by the council and the mayor(dictator). Evidently the mayor and the powers that be new they were coming, which is probably why the mayor decided not to show up for the Statue dedication.

    Comment by Mike — 12:05 pm September 8, 2008 #

  18. I have an inquiry out to SPD (media unit) for official response on why bikers weren’t cited/arrested. As the organizer notes, though, they were NOT present at the actual ceremony – I was there for that event 1:30-2:15 – the first cyclist sighting was at 3-something pm in Fairmount area, followed by Admiral, then Alki, then ultimately Lincoln Park. As for the mayor, I’m also doublechecking on why he wasn’t at the event; one report I got was that he was out of town. For what it’s worth, the parks superintendent also sent a surrogate, and the governor’s husband bowed out because of a soldier funeral. Tom Rasmussen and deputy parks supt. Christopher Williams were the dignitaries who WERE there.

    Comment by WSB — 12:30 pm September 8, 2008 #

  19. Followup: Just talked to SPD media unit. Though they didn’t have any specifics of advance notification in THIS situation, we discussed the general policies of why, for example, arrests generally aren’t made during the annual Fremont Parade, when naked bicyclists show up with plenty of advance notice: There are one of two factors, they say, that generally need to be present in these situations — (1) there has to be a victim – someone has to complain (if anyone who reads this actually DID call police on that day, let us know); (2) they need to be doing something that, as Daniel writes above, could be construed as lewd behavior. And the media-unit boss notes that policy resulted from consultations with the city attorney, meetings, etc., it’s not just something somebody made up on the fly. So to speak. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 2:26 pm September 8, 2008 #

  20. WNBR riders did note a few negative comments during our ride:

    Someone in the vicinity of Boy Scouts at Statue of Liberty Special Event.
    Drive by in big red SUV at South of Lighthouse.
    One man walking on the path at Lincoln Park.
    I’m sure there were others as well, but I don’t recall them.

    Some people have such serious issues with their own bodies they just can’t stand it when other people are having some harmless fun and are enjoying life. They want more governmental regulation, the long arm of government to come in and rescue them from people who do not suffer from their same delusions. They fight to have laws established that nudity equals sex. They call the police when they see skinnydippers or people sunbathing, they fight against topfree rights for women because they also want to sexualize women’s bodies and more often than not, they are anti-environment. We see these people as real life Grinches. These people need to lighten up.

    We try to avoid people who are going to have a temper tantrum or have sour looks on their faces. Thankfully, those people are far and few between. The vast majority of responses we heard and saw were cheers, honking, shouts, nice comments, smiles people running out of their houses to say hi, tour buses tooting their horns, people scrambling for their cameras, polite waves, and people who invited us to come over and join in with their festivities.

    Cheers!

    Comment by Daniel Johnson — 3:30 pm September 8, 2008 #

  21. TR, As I earlier indicated, we have been in contact with SPD Southwest Precinct Operations Lieutenant Steve Paulsen. This was done through telephone conversations and e-mail. We do not communicate with the SPD Media Unit. The Operations Lieutenant will communicate with people he/she feels needs to know in the chain of command. Sometimes we may additionally contact the Duty Officer the day of the event.

    Regarding City policy, that has been developed over years of dealing with the Solstice Cyclists
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice_Cyclists
    and policy with us is spelled out by the Chief of Police here:
    http://slog.thestranger.com/files/2008/06/big_nude_note.jpg

    Hope this helps. Cheers, -Daniel

    Comment by Daniel Johnson — 3:42 pm September 8, 2008 #

  22. Sorry about the word “Jerk”, it was the first thing that came to mind. It bothers me that there are laws in this city that seem to go un heeded, and that public nudity must be okay because of what some other people do in Fremont or Portland, or Chicago, or Egypt. What I am saying is, if you don’t want to obey the law, then vote in your agenda and change it. Until then, obey it for the “good of the people.” Don’t subject me and my family to your idea of freedom of expression, or whatever it was.
    Do we have to define for the “media-unit boss” or the public what lewd behavior is, in order for those laws that are in place to be upheld? And the point about the guy in the bushes was not a comment on you personally. No way. The point was, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” If nude bicycle riding is benign, then so is nude sun bathing. So, why not make Alki beach, a nude beach. The reason, I believe is that the people of Seattle have agreed on ordinances that reflect the values of the people in the city. (Just like the anti smoking laws.) So, if you choose to smoke, go to a smoking area. If you choose to be nude, go to a nude beach or a colony. In that way, I won’t be in your face, and you won’t in mine. Laws like these were made so that people like you and me can live side by side, have totaly different opnions on life, and still love each other out of respect. Respect, in that I don’t throw my values in front of your face, and you don’t throw yours in front of mine. Respect is tolerance.

    Comment by BB — 4:16 pm September 8, 2008 #

  23. I would think that PUBLIC nudity IS lewd behavior. It seems that innocent decent families that want to spend a day at the beach should be able to do so without having to worry about what their children see. Especially from people who have a total disregard and lack of respect for other peoples civil rights. If someone feels the need to be naked and ride bikes, they can do it on there own property out of public view. It seems that what ever message these whack jobs were trying to get across could have easily been done fully clothed. There were plenty of community groups and organizations with booths at the all day Statue of Liberty dedication and there messages were received without the need for them to disrobe.
    Does a call to the police require a telephone? Or if you approach an officer(s) in the street and complain to them is that enough to file a complaint. I know I was not the only one there that shared my feelings and complained to the police on sight as well.

    Mike

    Comment by Mike — 4:26 pm September 8, 2008 #

  24. BB,

    We are not into breaking laws for the sake of it. The police made it very clear we must obey the rules of the road. Not sure what laws we would be breaking for a WNBR event. Yes, not wearing a helmet does carry a hefty fine, I know several people whose lives have been saved by using them. Some in SPD, just like the some of you, can’t stand us, some want us arrested, some think pursuing us is a waste of time and yes, there are many that think we are pretty cool. In some cities, rides get a police escort and a lot of cooperation, so far we aren’t big enough to get an escort, nor a parade permit, which we don’t need.

    Re: the nudity issue

    I don’t think nude “colonies” really exist. Nude beaches typically aren’t so, in the exclusive sense. I can only think of one nude beach in the world, I think its in South America. Clothing-optional works best because people can chose what they want to wear without being exclusive to other people.

    When I use the beach nude locally, if I’m in the minority, I will often communicate with other people in the area to reduce any problems, sometimes we use signs as well, so everybody gets a chance of enjoying the beach. Good communication is simple tool that really does work and can reduce so many conflicts. Yesterday, myself and others did this at two beaches and it worked really, really well.

    At the same time its everybody’s responsibility for enforcing public standards and laws and make the beach a safe atmosphere for everybody. Look at what ORCOBA has done: http://tinyurl.com/54tgay
    The State of Oregon invited naturists to use the beach to chase off undesirable people who made the beach an unsavory place to visit. Now the area is a lot safer.

    Regarding nudity on public lands, I see little evidence of people looking for conflict. Sunbathers and skinny dippers don’t enjoy conflict, they hate it. Most human beings will do anything to fit in with the crowd. Everybody wants to feel accepted on some level. Seattle law says nudity isn’t illegal on beaches, however, its pretty rare to see people use them nude or topfree because the police hassle them from time to time. There are only 4-5 beaches in Seattle where nude/topfree use occurs regularly.

    I hope you believe me when I tell you that I don’t and we don’t want to be in anybody’s face. Respecting your comfort space as best as we can, being polite and getting you to smile and laugh is a big part of why our rides are a success.

    I can’t imagine what values you have that we don’t share as well. There’s a lot of talk about “celebrating diversity” and that’s fine but we all are part of one family and we all have similar needs and aspirations in life. Family, safety and stability, home, making a living, love, serving God/following a higher purpose, recreation, liberty come to mind.

    Mike,

    I’m not really convinced that you have thought through what you are saying. I think you are having a gut-level response based on something negative you have experienced in the past that has hard-wired you into thinking that nude = lewd.

    If you had to run out of your house while taking a shower because of fire and you had not a stitch on, would you want your neighbors to report you for public nudity as you watched your house burn? Of course not, your nudity was not motivated by lewd or predatory motivations. Good laws are on the books for good reasons. Most appeal to the harm principle.

    Contextually, our bodies are not by themselves evil or repulsive. Moving away from official WNBR positions, I personally believe that God made us in His own image and that to deride the human body is an insult to God. To deride your own body insults millions if not billions of people with your own body type or physical qualities not to mention your own loving parents.

    I hate to see you put this additional layers of negative feelings on your own life. Richard Bach once said “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”

    If you believe that public nudity is lewd then you have just handed over a victory to people who make money purely through keeping nakedness in the realm of exploitation. How can we have a generation of healthy, happy people when we tell them that their bodies are indecent? Do you see what I’m saying here? We should celebrate our bodies, our common humanity, celebrate health, fitness and positive values.

    Regarding SPD responding to your complaint. It should make no difference whether you call SPD or talk to your local officer about your concerns. They should both respond according to law and policy.

    Cheers,

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel Johnson — 6:17 pm September 8, 2008 #

  25. No Daniel, you are the one with the “serious issues with your body” in that it seems you need to show it to everyone, and you think they should like it. And, I am not for adding more laws, I am for enforcement of the laws that we have. And like I said before, if you don’t like the laws, then change them, and I will abide by them. Give me a break, I am not equating nudity with sex. But if public nudity was okay, and Alki was a nude beach, watch the perv’s come out of the woodwork, and they ARE delusional about sex. I don’t sexualize a womens’ body by agreeing that she should wear choths, I honor her body with the respect it deserves. That incredible body brought you into the world.
    Oh yeah, where did the “environmentalist” statement come from? There has to be another fun debate in there some where.
    I think that the nice honks and waves are a testement to how nice, polite, and non-confrontational West Seattle people are. Or maybe they just wanted to get a photo of the spectacle. I for one don’t want West Seattle to turn into a circus. Unless I get to be the ring master! Just kidding.

    Comment by BB — 6:19 pm September 8, 2008 #

  26. I like wearing clothes, I don’t think you can pin me as an exhibitionist. I just don’t feel compelled to wear clothes as much as some. There are appropriate times for both. Its a personal and practical choice. I also want to be respectful of others around me. Its a bit of balancing act sometimes. Trying to make everybody happy during these events is an artform.

    I do enjoy these events, I really want people to walk away with a smile and perhaps see in us positive, healthy values that they, even in some small way can take to heart.

    There are people out there who don’t always take care of themselves. Self-awareness, healthy lifestyles and strong family and other social interaction is part of that equation to move people in the right direction. I believe that “the body is the temple of God”. I struggle with this myself. I think taking things for granted hurts us individually and collectively.

    Oilman T. Boone Pickens noted that the US uses 25% of the world’s oil but only has 3% of the world’s oil reserves. As Americans, we eat way too much and we use too much of the world’s energy. I think there is a direct link between being conscious of what we do to our bodies with food and what we are doing to our society as Americans by being energy hogs and not minding the cradle to grave values
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_cycle_assessment
    We need simple, healthy, smart solutions in this country.

    I think if you value life and are thankful for it you will eat healthier and tread lighter and respect what has been handed to you from generations before you so that our children can live comfortably and safely without fighting wars over depleted natural resources.

    Very best,

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel Johnson — 6:43 pm September 8, 2008 #

  27. FYI I didn’t get to post this sooner but late today, I talked with Capt. Kessler at the precinct and he confirmed what Daniel Johnson has written here about the notification: The Precinct was notified. And, as I mentioned hearing earlier while talking with Sgt. Whitcomb in the media unit, it is city policy not to pursue arrest/citing of people for being naked unless (a) someone complains and is willing to press charges (e.g. testify in court) or (b) the naked person is doing something lewd. It was also very clear from the conversations I had today that this is not a policy the police department initiated unilaterally, so if anyone wants to complain, I suggest the City Attorney and the Mayor/Council (Councilmember Tim Burgess is in charge of the Public Safety Committee). Contact information for all of them can be easily found on the city website at
    http://seattle.gov
    Meantime, my takeaway was, if you see somebody naked and you think they should be arrested/cited, call 911 pronto.

    P.S. We appreciate all commenters (provided they stay within our few boundaries – no insulting other participants in a thread, no obscenities, etc.) but I did want to give a particular shoutout to Mr. Johnson for being here to try to explain what he did. Regardless of what you think of it. We are honored to play host to the WSB threads where the subject of a story has turned up, unsolicited and unalerted, to answer comments – repeatedly – whether negative or positive. (It’s happened in more benign topics, too!)

    Comment by WSB — 9:32 pm September 8, 2008 #

  28. If it gets a few more people on bicycles, for whatever, reason…AND following the rules of the road…I kind of like the idea!

    If smokers only passed by fairly fast, in groups, three times a summer, I’d be cool with holding my nose & my breath briefly. I don’t think the police would be cool about individual naked cyclists bopping in and out of the side streets unannounced every day. But 3 times, in the whole city, in a year? If your neck and eyelids work, you can avert your eyes without much difficulty. My drapes also close, as do my blinds. Give yours a try.

    If there are people accosting kids or stealing metal out of back yards, I want the police to be spending their time on violations of personal property and safety, not ticketing someone on a bike for showing a few more square inches of skin (and really, no more anatomy) than they would in a speedo, bikini or thong. (That’d actually look more sleazy than skin and slogans, anyway.)

    Having had a molesting uncle in the family (thankfully he’s now dead) I can tell you he was a prude who always tried to ingratiate himself with the police by castigating hippies and freaks and people who didn’t play strictly by the rules. That’s only an anecdotal statement! But I do buy what Dan says, that nakedness is not always about sex. And being 100% anti-nakedness is not a very effective way to protect your kids from abuse.

    BB (and others)–using “abuse” or “predatory” to describe any passing view of nakedness is at least a little…painful (not to get judgmental and call it “offensive”)…to anyone who has had to deal with a molester in the family. I wasn’t even one of the ones who got “touched,” and it still makes me cringe.

    Being discomfited, or embarrassed or offended or put in an awkward situation is not nice, but it’s a whole different level of bad to be used for someone’s sexual gratification.

    Maybe Dan could encourage the riders to put someone with a sign ahead and behind the bunch, so people get more notice to avert their eyes or distract their kids, if it’s going to bother their sense of propriety or offend against their moral code? Dan, can this realistically be done, without compromising the purpose of the ride? Something like “notice: naked bike riders ahead”?

    Comment by Joy — 7:16 am September 9, 2008 #

  29. The nudey bikers are a total HOOOT! What fun. The Solstice Parade Bikers are one of the main reasons that a pal and her daughters show up at 7 am to save a place for about 20 of us at the parade. Our kids and those who sit by us say things like: Look mom those people are painted. or Those naked people are fun! and giggle. They notice the paint and fun colors more than anything. For everyone around, it is no more shocking than clowns on stilts or belly dancers with bare feet. The parade would be lack-luster and a dud without them. If there are thousands upon thousands of people who willingly flock to a parade, then what truly is this “community standard” against nudity. Seems the community standard for most of Seattle residents in the Pride Parade (where the bikers are cheered), in the Solstice Parade (where the bikers are cheered) and what sounds to me like the majority of people laughing and honking horns, all the other naked bike rides are happy joyous events, except for a few up-tight humorless types. When I see the nudies coming, I just break out in a wide grin and enjoy the spectacle.

    And honestly, if they were not naked, and were not on their bikes naked, and wanted to draw attention to our dependence on oil, or our tendency to drive people off the road and not respect vulnerable people trying to save money and get exercise during their commutes–> Would anyone ever notice them, or take their attempts to draw attention to their issues seriously?

    Heck, I would not mind seeing the occasional naked biker, grandma or otherwise come down the street any time. Biking is fun. And they are a hoot. In fact I wonder what it must be like to be that open and free. Must be a blast.

    All those thousands of people who LOVE the bikers, naked or otherwise, usually don’t write to refute points taken in blogs. I think they are out having fun, and living life. I kind of think from my own experience that they ARE in the majority.

    To sum up: Bikers are fun! Naked bikers are a HOOT!

    Thanks for listening– aloha

    Comment by Carl — 1:23 am September 13, 2008 #

  30. Thanks for sharing your opinion.
    Point of clarification as always, opinions shared after WSB stories aren’t just “points taken in blogs.”

    This is a commercial news site that publishes in blog format. Almost all news sites, large and small, have discussion features (like this comment section) these days, and while the majority of readers of any given site, large and small, indeed do not leave comments, it’s not that they’re out doing something else, they just prefer to read and not discuss.
    For those other 10 percent or so, we and other news sites provide this feature. Thanks for using it. — TR, WSB editor/co-publisher

    Comment by WSB — 3:27 am September 13, 2008 #

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