Seattle concerns

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Contents

Opening statement

The Organic Living/Work Less Party takes all allegations concerning inappropriate behavior by riders associated with the World Naked Bike Ride Seattle events seriously and we do whatever we can to investigate and help prevent future problems of a similar nature in future events. We are also open to suggestions by local government, local groups and citizens to improve our ride and reduce any conflicts. We will also do what we can to see if there are ways that we can be more clear about ride expectations and better enforce these values. We do have a very limited ride marshall program to help steer and pace the ride through the city and better control the actions of cyclists, especially in sensitive areas of the city. Also, all riders are asked to enforce our policies and values during the event and to take those values with them after the ride. People who are making unwelcome lewd or harassing gestures or engaging in criminal conduct against others should be prosecuted, according to the severity of their conduct, during any event, regardless of how they choose to dress themselves.

Purpose

One clarification, WNBR does not seek to "push boundaries" with regard to adherence to traffic laws, criminal sexual conduct or offensive behavior. This is a peaceful, joyful, artistic and non-confrontational event. As a large bicycle ride we do have some practical conflicts with the timing conflicts presented by some traffic lights in getting our riders through intersections and we do have some minor conflicts with beach regulations currently on the books regarding beaches, bikes and buttocks, but we are managing the best we can.

We ride to inspire citizens to make personal and political choices to turn away from oil dependency and car culture and promote positive views of the human body, the most amazing and beautiful transportation vessel and machine of our age. Like Al Gore in his recent film An Inconvenient Truth we believe there is a clear, moral imperative for us to act with regard to these issues. Individuals who act irresponsibly and out of spite to our event's values are not in compliance to WNBR values or its message and tarnish its effort to create a positive experience for our conscientious riders and the general public alike.

14 July 2007

Beligerant participant

Arrests

First three riders leaving Seward Park were arrested, cited, and released from a holding cell at the SPD South Precinct after about two hours.

City of Seattle

Communication amongst the various departments seems to have been lacking in a big way in 2007. WNBR organizers are looking into what happened and who was responsible.

10 June 2006

See also: Seattle 10 June 2006 ride report page. Note: There were no known complaints made during the main 2004 and 2005 events, except for the mini ride in September 2005.

For our June 10, 2006 ride there were, to be clear, very, very few incidents of what we would call evidence of offense taken by the public (looking away, verbal complaints/exchanges, et cetera) during our ride. However, each incident merits a careful look at whether or not the situation could have been somehow been mitigated or if it was simply an example of a minor culture clash regarding beliefs about the rights of cyclists and the human body. We do understand and respect that some people are offended by cyclists riding two abreast on streets, taking up a lane of traffic and the appearance of human bodies in general. We try to be respectful of these concerns by communicating a set of guidelines to our riders.

We are confused and a bit disappointed by a recent formal SPD Public Disclosure Request letter dated July 5, 2006 by mail which indicated there were no complaints with regard to our ride, which we can confirm is NOT the case based on three complaints we have read thus far. These clear holes in the reports clearly question the validity that the Public Disclosure Requests have, which WNBR and other event organizers have requested in past years.

Complaint 1

A complaint from a citizen at Seward Park, DJ did witness this exchange. It did not seem too intense though, our riders did discuss issues with the citizen, but kept it very light-hearted. The citizen objected to nudity and felt it was only appropriate at home. Some of our riders countered that if we were meant to be naked we would have been born that way. The citizen left and apparently felt the need to call 911.

From the city

Date: June 21, 2006 9:09:40 AM PDT
Subject: Re: Fwd: WNBR Seattle 2006 complaints?

Daniel, hi.

Here's the text that was sent to the mayor:

"It is 3:55 pm and I just ret'd from Bicycle Sat. (6/10) Approx. 15 minutes ago, a group of 40-50 naked people, mostly men, were riding in a pack along the public road that is closed to bike riders for the day. This type of exhibitionism is inappropriate in public settings and should be outlawed. If people want to display nudity in their own home, fine. I draw the line at this type of nudity especially at a publicly sponsored City event where children must be exposed to what I consider inappropriate and crass behavior. People partake in BicycleSaturday and Sunday as a way of spending quality time with their families. I called 911 and they were aware of the problem and the dispatcher said that they were trying to deal with it. Fine, but I believe there needs to be a public rule about this and you as Mayor need to enforce it. Thank you. "

So, evidently not a matter of anything riders did while naked, but the basic premise of their being naked in public.

Complaint 2

A complaint at Madrona Park (visit two after returning from Seward Park) as viewable in the Madison Park Times Police Log section [1].

Police Log

Madrona

Nude bicyclists: A woman in her early 40s called police at 5:15 p.m. on June 10 after seeing nude people at Madrona Beach.

Police arrived to find more than a hundred clothed people there, with more than half being children. All the nude people had left, the woman said.

She said she and a friend were walking in the park when she saw "all these nude people walking around"; some had bicycles with them. The police report said she was appalled at the sight and wondered why nudity at the beach was permissible.

The officer told the woman that the World Naked Bike Ride was taking place, from Eastlake to Capitol Hill to Madrona.

He then told her a police report could be written if she wanted "to be a victim." She said she did, stating she felt violated and that she was a tax-paying citizen. She added that this type of obscenity should not be allowed.

WNBR rider response

"Interesting that none of the "more than a hundred" other people did not feel victimized."

"Why should one person be able to consider it 'obscene'."

"There is such a thing as 'community standards' and the majority of the 'community' seemed well pleased with us. Remember the "Happy Birthday"? No problem there."

Complaint 3

Complaint from Spanaway resident in the vicinity of Husky Stadium (documented below).

Complaint

Dear Mayor, I just want to let you know how upset I am about your city. I drove up on June 10th, 2006 to visit my husband in UW medical center when he had a kidney transplant. There was a lot of traffic due to the University commencement ceramony. I was not too bothered with the traffic, though, I was bothered with the naked bike riders on the sidewalks. I can not believe they got to do this on this day with families of young children all around and I understand they were doing this to prove some kind of point, (perhaps their just crazy), but, when it turns sexual, I have issues. A young woman was walking on the same side as the bike riders and she appeared to have had morals, when they rode by, she put up a book to block from seeing them and an elderly (I use the term losely) gentleman rode by her and shouted to her and pointed to his private area saying, "it's right here baby". They are now on the verge of being obscene and indecent. I also saw a young child riding along, which to me, is explotation of a child. How could this be? I also saw a female, with tassels on her...well, she was flaunting them to the traffic. Could they have just made a statement with their clothes on? Why did it have to get so sexual? I thank the Lord my children were not with me on that day. It is hard enough to try to raise them up with values and seeing other people do as they please makes it very hard to explain. Please tell me why? Thnak you for your time, (name removed for privacy)

City Response

July 12, 2006

Note: The name, address and e-mail address of the woman from Spanaway who complained to the City has been removed.

Dear Ms. X:

Mayor Nickels asked me to respond on his behalf to your message about the nude bicycle ride you encountered near the UW Medical Center.

The Citywide Special Events committee, which issues permits for special events, is headed by a Seattle Parks and Recreation staff member. However, the World Naked Bike Ride which you encountered was not a permitted event: the Seattle Police Department had determined that its 64 riders could feasibly ride with existing traffic and obey normal traffic regulations, and so did not require a special-event permit.

While public nudity is objectionable to many citizens, under Washington state’s Indecent Exposure Law, public nudity in itself is not illegal. The law specifies that “A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.” In order to file a formal complaint, a citizen can contact police to report the particular behavior and register his or her willingness to testify in court if the nude person is cited for indecent exposure.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to control all illegal and inappropriate activities in our parks and on our streets. Public officials cannot prevent an event from happening on the basis of its potential offensiveness, only on the basis of its being illegal. The World Naked Bike Ride you encountered was not illegal. There will always be people who push the boundaries, and from your description it sounds as though there were a few of those on the ride. I am forwarding your complaint to the organizer of the World Naked Bike Ride who, of course, is always interested in the public’s reactions.

I am sorry you had an unpleasant experience in our city, and I know that Mayor Nickels joins me in wishing your husband a thorough and speedy recovery from his recent surgery.

Sincerely,
Kenneth R. Bounds
Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation

cc: Eric Friedli, Director, Enterprise Division, Seattle Parks and Recreation; Daniel Johnson, Organizer, World Naked Bike Ride; Virginia Swanson, Special Events Coordinator, Seattle Parks and Recreation

"Seattle Parks and Recreation will work with all citizens to be good stewards of our environment, and to provide safe and welcoming opportunities to play, learn, contemplate and build community." www.seattle.gov/parks

WNBR Seattle investigates

We currently have no conclusive info exactly on what happened. We are concerned though if there truly was unnecessary remarks made or offensive behavior. One of the riders had this to say:

"I saw the woman and heard the comment from the bike rider... The facts she stated are very much as I remember them. I can not with 100% certainty identify the bike rider who made the comment."

"She was giving the riders a very mean look. It was the worst reaction I saw all day. Perhaps he was trying to get even?"

"My opinion is that this kind of behavior should be strongly discouraged during future bike rides."

Other incidents

In addition to these complaints I also heard of or witnessed the following incidents during our event:

Incident 1

One parent, who seemingly could not stop smiling, directed her children to look away from riders on Harrison Street at the Seattle Center. Several of her children decided for themselves to look anyway, while another toddler had the strange reaction of covering its ears. This curious reaction was documented on our photography page.

Rider comment

Quinton noted this interesting juxtapozition with the other: "...while next to her was another woman with children saying 'look! look!'"

Incident 2

An exchange at a very busy Cal Anderson Park where a citizen apparently protested that there were children present in the park, we countered that there was also a child (10 years old) present in our ride and the situation seemed to diffuse. SPD officers at CA were overheard (by some of our friends who were not in the ride) making comments questioning the morality of our ride.

Incident 3

A male yells "idiots" very angrily and loudly from a car stuck in UW Commencement traffic as we passed gridlocked traffic effortlessly by.

Incident 4 (internal)

A rider complainted that another rider was using his cell phone during the ride to take close-up pictures of riders, including photos which looked to be focused on the personal areas of female riders. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

That's it. So that is a handful of complaints from a nine hour, city-wide event. That's not too bad, but, as the saying goes: "there's always room for improvement".

A successful ride

Overall, our ride was very well received and our riders were very happy to see so much of the city, most areas having never experienced such a ride before. People screamed in support, honked their horns, one driver wanted to join our ride, one reserved family picninc at Madrona Park insisted we sing happy birthday for two family members and on and on. A lot of citizens came up to us and wanted to talk with us about our event and wanted to take pictures with us. One pair of riders this year were newly weds, celebrating their marriage with white flowing headdress and black tie. Our tradition of stopping at the International Fountain was a completely magical experience for all. Our ride along Lake Washington and as participants in Seattle's Group Health Bicycle Saturday and Sunday event was awe-inspiring with sweeping views of the Cascades and Lake Washington. For a third year in a row, the Ride the Ducks of Seattle bus and boat tour has been stalking and following us through Wallingford and Fremont, and we also ran into several other tour buses full of tourists waving, smiling, pointing and taking pictures. This phenomenon is also documented here: [2]

Access to parks

WNBR has requested use of parks to stage artistic and musical components of our event and to allow for body painting. We do put up screens to provide our participants privacy from leering eyes while painting and also to reduce the numbers of complaints from people who are offended by humans.

We have also asked for access to fountains and beaches, because, well... everybody loves to go to the beach and run through fountains...

We also need to use the bathroom, especially when we drink so much water to stay hydrated for such a long bike ride. The easiest bathrooms to use are in parks.

We also scheduled a modified yoga session on Lake Washington lead by a professional yoga instructor midway to help people stretch.

Part of the local adaptation of the body-positive message of WNBR is to support a large ensemble of Northwest groups who are pushing for Seattle to join other cities in providing clothing-optional areas on local beaches. As more people travel and visit other states and countries, they want the same experiences locally that they have experienced abroad. Add to that a new level of desperation with not being able to afford to drive or fly with the high price of gas and you can see what more citizens are encouraging reform. For more information see Seattle Beaches

Children & Nudity

See also Nudity and children Wikipedia article.

As you may know, there is no study of any kind linking children and non-sexual nudity to any negative effects. There is no harm. Despite this fact, many raise concern about children seeing naked people in non-sexualized contexts. See http://www.fcn.ca/children_2.htm The fact that many children choose for themselves to be naked on many occasions seems evidence enough.

Two of the four annual naked rides in our city do have families participating as both riders and spectators with riders ranging in age from probably two years old to eighty I would imagine. WNBR does not target any particular age group during our rides nor do we intentionally avoid any area of town to avoid children. If you think about it, children are everywhere, they are part of the general population. Expecting us to avoid areas with children is akin to asking us not to ride in any part of the city with deciduous trees or fruit-bearing plants. Beaches have children, and so do parks, shopping districts, streets and tourist areas.

We do not crash school assemblies or religious events, although we have been through weddings and family birthday parties, but not intentionally. I have never seen a child take offense to a naked/painted cyclists in the ten urban naked cycling events I have participated in up and down the West Coast. Children do show interest in painted naked cyclists and people running through the fountain. Indeed, I would be concerned about any ride that was not "family-friendly" and instead advertised itself as "adults-only". That would suggest to me that it was not appropriate for a public environment.

Anybody who has ever been around children of any kind would know that kids whine, complain, cry and throw fits if they are not having fun. Our 10 year old kid who has participated for two years outlasted and outrode many of the adults during our record-breaking 27+ mile ride. He went swimming in the lake when most of us were put off by the cold of the water and clearly enjoyed riding through the city. How that is exploitation is beyond me. Kids are just as capable of enjoying biking and swimming just like anybody else. Its hard to imagine that parents would bring their kids to watch or participate in WNBR or the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade in droves if there was any chance of exploitation or seeing something creepy. It is a serious problem when families instill in their children that bodies are inherently obscene and exist only in the contexts of life support, sexuality and mundane bodily functions. Those are not positive values which we should pass on to future generations. It is troubling for me to hear that parents believe that somehow discussions about the natural appearance of the human body, of which all of us are directly connected with, somehow constitutes a difficult and awkward conversation that someone could resent having with a living being that they gave life to in the first place.

Closing remarks

It is unfortunate that so much of the dialogue WNBR Seattle has had with the city is about concerns about our ride's legality and not our message, which is the whole point. WNBR has a very important role to play, even if a small one, of joining other advocacy groups and concerned citizens in instilling a sense of urgency when discussing issues of climate change, the value that cycling has in this regard and instilling positive view of the human body. We are far less offensive than our cycling counterparts Critical Mass by showing that we can share the road and be polite at the same time. A large majority of the CM riders really do want to create a positive change in their community and inspire people to ride their bikes more often by having large, celebratory bike rides. The WNBR Seattle Collective team members have really tried to address a large number of concerns that the city has with the ride because we understand that acting responsibly during our rides, following traffic laws and regulations, will leave a better impression on those who we are reaching out to, the general public.

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