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Riders go bare to bear message

Well, sort of. Cyclists in the World Naked Bike Ride had to cover up certain parts to protest oil dependency.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published March 12, 2006


[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
John Palm, 40, center, put away his shorts and prepares to lead a group of almost-nude bicyclists down Bayshore Boulevard to promote body acceptance and to protest dependance on foreign oil.

TAMPA - Turns out Tampa's first naked bike ride on Sunday had a dress code after all.

G-strings.

The group of about a dozen riders, mostly male and mostly older than 40, reluctantly complied. Their compromise was the only way city officials and police would allow the World Naked Bike Ride to roll down Bayshore Boulevard.

"It's disappointing," said organizer John Palm, 40, an ultrasound technician who lives in Lutz. "We probably would have had more (participants) if we didn't have these restrictions."

The few women who chose to ride were fully clothed. The men who didn't have a G-string improvised. Some simply rolled up their underwear to reveal as much as police would allow.

Sunday's nearly naked bike ride was a protest against the world's dependency on oil and pollution by automobiles. The group's mission was also to foster acceptance of diverse body images.

"We're the only species on the planet that can't walk around the way we were created," said John Moyer, 59.

He lives in a rural area near Knoxville, Tenn., and said he rides his bike naked all the time. He read about plans for the World Naked Bike Ride to come to Tampa and planned a visit to participate.

"I have a good seat (on my bike). No chaffing," Moyer said. Besides a full-body tan, he wore nothing but a white G-string and a pair of sunglasses.

"I'm all for it. It's freedom of speech," said Jennifer Serfass, 40, of Tampa.

She was walking along Bayshore when she saw the gathering crowd at Bay to Bay Boulevard and stopped to see what was going on. She said she respected the group's message but would not have joined in the demonstration if she'd known about it earlier.

A trio of young teens stood out as the youngest of the bikers.

"We think more people should ride bikes," said Keith Sommers cq, 15, of Tampa.

Then again, neither he nor his two friends are old enough to drive. Sommers's mother trailed behind the bikers in her minivan to keep an eye on the teens.

Six Tampa police bicycle officers rode alongside the bikers as they made their way south on Bayshore to the gate of MacDill Air Force Base. Military personnel gathered to see what was going on and eventually outnumbered the bike riders.

At the gate, Palm pulled a few homemade signs with messages directed at President Bush out of bike packs and then read them aloud: "No Iraqi died to fuel this body, George," read one. "Torture is not an American value, George," read another.

Similar demonstrations were scheduled to take place Sunday in Australia and New Zealand, among other cities in the southern hemisphere. A northern hemisphere World Nake Bike Ride will take place June 10. Palm said the Florida weather was more pleasant in March than June, so he scheduled Tampa's ride for this month.

"I think it's a little outrageous," said Russ Williams, 19, of Clearwater.

He made the drive to South Tampa out of curiousity and heckled the bikers before they peddled off. "They're not getting anything done."

Palm responded to Williams's negative talk the way he did to drivers who honked their horns and told bikers to put on some clothes. He invited him to get a bike and join the ride.

"We don't want to do anything offensive," Palm said. "We're just riding naked. That's all."

[Last modified March 12, 2006, 23:01:02]


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