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Naked Bike Ride in Madison looking good

Efforts to herd clothed, scantily-clad and unclad bicyclists together for a potentially uncomfortable Madison tour on World Naked Bike Ride day have flopped in the past.

Efforts to herd clothed, scantily-clad and unclad bicyclists together for a potentially uncomfortable Madison tour on World Naked Bike Ride day have flopped in the past.

But next month, they just might pull it off. Or at least most of it.

There has been no official announcement, but there have been posters, and several informal meetings in the Rathskeller at the Memorial Union on campus. An earnest discussion group is maintained at Yahoo.com and news has circulated among bicycle groups.

In an e-mail to the Madison Parks Division's street use permit section, Tom Ryan, who said he was an organizer, wrote there will be a World Naked Bike Ride "parade" in Madison on June 19. The ride will start at 11 a.m. along an eight-mile 90 minute course with "very few hills" and a possible swing around the Square during the Farmers' Market.

Between a "dozen and 100 riders" are expected, Ryan wrote, describing a tentative route as "the lakeshore at Memorial Union, State Street, the (Capitol Square) and the lakeshore at James Madison Park." Ryan could not be reached for comment.

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He wrote the event "is essentially a political demonstration in the form of a bicycle parade."

A Madison Police Department captain, Mary Schauf, has talked with Ryan and the City Attorney's Office has also been consulted. They may not need a parade permit or a street use permit, but officials said police discretion would be a factor in deciding whether a rider was ticketed or arrested for disorderly conduct or lewd and lascivious conduct.

Schauf said that with a public route, police not only are concerned about safety, but have to balance the fact that "we have people with a desire to express their opinions in creative ways," with "some people's objections to being part of it.

"Some people are just not going to want to see (a naked person)," she said.

She said Ryan, who is familiar Downtown as an orange-costumed street musician, told her he was "looking for a joyous celebration."

The international WNBR day -- organizers point out that though "naked" is in the name, clothing is optional and many participants sport body paint -- is scheduled for June 12. The Madison event is set for a week later, apparently so it does not conflict with the large WNBR in Chicago, where up to 3,000 riders are expected.

The ride was first organized internationally in 2004 to promote energy independence and positive body image, organizers say on the group's website. Madison, though a longtime mecca for bicyclists and exhibitionists of diverse stripes, has never been able to combine the two for any sort of formal public display.

Assistant city attorney Lana Mades said participants in the June 19 event, if any, stand the risk of arrest on charges, based on a police officer's decision, of lewd and lascivious behavior or disorderly conduct.

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She noted, however, "they could avoid any risk with some minimal clothing, some of (the normal bicycling clothing) is pretty scanty these days, and you can get as much bicycling road rash from that as from being totally naked."

"Typically, if a bicycle ride group follows the rules of the road and are proceeding, I don't really see the need to have a parade permit," she said.

Nor does it appear the group will need a street use permit, said the Parks Division's Kelli Lamberty.

Amanda White, the director of the Madison office of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, said "we don't have an official stance on the ride, but we absolutely encourage people to get out on their bikes and have fun, typically (when they do this) they are wearing clothes."

Copyright (c) 2010, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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