Constructing nude-space in Seattle

The Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle is one of America’s first urban bike trails, so has had time to wield an effect on surrounding urban development. It has provided the non-vehicular access that made it viable to rehabilitate the gasworks as a park, and it has had an urban renewal effect on the docklands South of the Ballard district. Young people can live there and safely cycle to work in the city, Washington University or the coast. Looking along that stretch, I see ample opportunity for large scale, bicycle oriented projects.

Seattle Gasworks Park

Seattle Gasworks Park

However, this cycling utopia is tightly constrained. It is not the case for the whole of Seattle that people are free to bike as though they are in the Netherlands down the middle of streets, as they do around Ballard, or assume right-of-way at car interfaces, as they do along the Burke Gilmore Trail. Neither is it true of the rest of Seattle that you can ride naked. The woman in red in this photo is only wearing red paint.
She is riding home from the Solstice Parade. I know all about this event, having paraded myself as well. Perhaps I need to up my meds, but it was a sensationally boring day. I got to the paint party at 11.30. It had been going since 9. 1000 people fill a marina, strip naked and spend interminable hours painting each other to look like super heroes and zebras. The average body is pretty nigh perfect. It’s an exhibitionist crowd, not a naturist one. The pity for exhibitionists is they have to be incredibly funny (like the dude who rode a skate board wearing nothing but a fox tail that he wiggled and jiggled while propelling his board) or exceptionally clever with paint, to stand out. I would have felt furtive filming the paint party, so can only share an iPhone clip I made during the parade:
Going nude is like going by bike—vulnerable, anti-capitalist, marginal, sassy, bla bla—so we aught not be surprised to see both impulses giving rise to mass events. For a day, a shopping space was turned into nude-space, and cycle-space. Today, it is once again clothes space, and car space.
I’m a bit tired and on my way to a plane, and still have Steven Holl’s St. Ignatius Chapel to visit before I leave, so will simply posit that nude parade goers don’t want a free country, but rely on mores to get attention and bond. Likewise, most cyclists. We need car land in order to make spaces of contradistinction. Planners would like to save the masses from themselves. But there’s a case for letting them suffer, while we congregate in the linear zones of our cities where we can make cycle space. That’s just What I think.
Among all of the photos on Flickr I could only find this one of me in the background. Tell me if you see an apple green Bromptons!


  1. Thanks for joining us for the ride! (I found your blog via your above video.)
    What you witnessed was a spectacular turnout, no doubt on account of the uncharacteristically solstice-y weather we had!
    Thanks also for pointing out that most of the nude cyclists pedal in this event as exhibitionists than as naturists. As a frequent cyclist and sometimes naturist, I’ve found it to be a somewhat challenging space to navigate—between the balance of the cyclists and the onlookers. I was glad, however, to share it this year with my seven-year-old.
    Here’s to more cycle-space and safe-space throughout urban-space!
    PS: Burke *Gilman Trail

    • Steven says:

      Thanks Andrea, great to hear from you, thanks for the spell-check, and confirmation of my hunch that the big motivation behind the event is to secure safe space in the city.

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