Cyclists go naked to protest car culture

LONDON - Hundreds of naked cyclists, some sporting strategically-placed body paint, toured the streets of London and other cities around the world on Saturday to protest oil dependency and the car culture.

Traffic came to a standstill and onlookers gaped or took photographs as the bare cyclists streamed past London's landmarks, blowing whistles and waving flags saying "Rights for Bikes".

Cyclists in Paris, Madrid and Vancouver, among other cities, joined in what was the fourth annual world naked bike ride.

One London participant had painted "Less Gas More Ass" across his bare back to extol the benefits of pedal power. More modest cyclists wore shorts, bikinis or strips of tape.

"We shouldn't be so dependent on oil," said Bogdan Potrowski, a 36-year-old Polish electrician, wearing just a baseball cap.

"We also want to show everyone how defenceless we are on the roads," he added after completing the route past London's prime tourist sites including the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street.

Tom Whelehan, 40, said the protest had numerous objectives: to urge more people to ride bikes, to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists and to celebrate the human body -- in all its shapes and sizes.

"We're trying to find the simplest, safest and most natural way to make our point," said Whelehan, a teacher.

He said cycling naked was reasonably comfortable but added that some of London's cobbled streets had proved a challenge.

Others were just there for fun or to bemoan the difficulties of being a bike-owner in big cities.

Rebecca Craig, 20, a student midwife with red hand prints painted on her breasts, said she had been motivated to join the ride after the front tyre of her bicycle was stolen.

"Everyone does it for different reasons," she said, pointing to the message drawn on her bare back: "Give me my wheel back".

Organisers of the London ride said about 850 people had taken part last year and they had hoped for more than 1,000 on Saturday, helped by sunny weather.

French television said around 400 cyclists attended the ride in Paris. Police arrived quickly on the scene putting an end to the rally and telling them to put their clothes on.

Police said five people were arrested for "sexual exhibition" after the rally which ended near the Opera building in central Paris.

- REUTERS

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