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Originally published Sunday, June 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Cyclists flesh out their stand against cars — and clothes

There wasn't quite the sea of flesh tones, body paint and bicycles yesterday at Gasworks Park some had expected. In fact, there looked to...

Seattle Times staff reporter

There wasn't quite the sea of flesh tones, body paint and bicycles yesterday at Gasworks Park some had expected.

In fact, there looked to be about twice as many photographers and spectators as naked bicyclists at the park, the starting point for the Seattle contribution to yesterday's World Naked Bike Ride.

Ride organizers in London told The Associated Press that similar events were planned around the globe in a number of countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and Israel.

It was the second time in as many years that dozens of area residents geared up and stripped down for a ride meant to be as much a protest of America's oil dependence as it was a monumental attempt at overcoming bashfulness.

Before the ride, Kaz Strzepek and Dru Santiago, both of Seattle, stood — still clothed — by their bicycles, eyeing the spectacle of multicolored tents, body painting, nudity and photography.

"We're going to feel it out, see how it goes," Strzepek said.

The two had come out thinking there would be a lot more people free of clothing but were intimidated by the number of photographers and the cold, rainy weather.

"If there were going to be more people who were undressed, I would be more comfortable," Strzepek said.

"Plus, the forecast today is for 61 [degrees] and showers," Santiago said.

Others in the group of 30-some, down from last year's 60 participants, were more bold.

Ty Metsker of West Seattle sat on his bike straight-backed and chin up for at least 20 minutes before the ride began. He was fully nude but for the helmet on his head, which he had outfitted with a video camera.

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He rode in last year's event, which also started at Gasworks Park but ended up at the International Fountain at the Seattle Center, and he overcame his fear of being fully exposed then.

"I freaked," Metsker said. "I changed my mind probably 300 times that day."

But in no time, all timidity had vanished.

"When we rode into the Seattle Center, it's a memory I'll never forget," he said.

Battling "comfort zone"

This year's ride took the group, which eventually did grow to about 60 people, on a somewhat improvised journey from Gas Works Park through various neighborhoods and past landmarks until it ended up hours later at City Hall.

Metsker rode yesterday in support of bicyclists' rights — which he and others say have been in decline as the United States relies more on cars — and to help break the city "out of its comfort zone," he said.

"People watch a dozen murders and rapes every night on the news, yet the naked body seems to bother people so much," Metsker said.

Seattle police kept an eye on yesterday's ride, but there were no arrests or citations, and nobody called police to complain, said police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

Seattle's laws on public nudity are somewhat vague and open to interpretation, Whitcomb said. Being able to charge someone with public indecency depends on someone else feeling victimized, and on the actions of the nude person, he said.

There is no clear-cut language in the law to say when being nude becomes offensive, Whitcomb said. "What's offensive to one person may not be offensive to another."

Protests elsewhere

Yesterday in London, hundreds of naked cyclists rode past Big Ben and the U.S. Embassy to protest dependence on gas-guzzling cars — and to push for greater use of bicycles. Crowds watched about 100 cyclists leave Hyde Park Corner on a journey that took them past some of the British capital's most famous landmarks.

"It's a protest against oil dependency and car culture and the overuse of cars for unnecessary reasons," said one of the organizers, Chad Neilson, 24, from north London.

In Spain's capital, Madrid, dozens of nude cyclists pedaled along major thoroughfares past famous landmarks, drawing surprised looks.

Most were men, naked except for shoes and helmets, or caps to fend off the hot Spanish sun.

"What we clearly want to show is that we feel naked against the traffic," said one organizer who gave only his first name, Javier. "Every day we have to put up with the traffic, the aggression of the drivers, their speed and bad manners."

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Nick Martin: 206-464-3896 or nmartin@seattletimes.com

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