Cambridge Naked Bike Ride

I read about the coming event in the local newspaper. And I thought I might go to see it. But then I took a package somewhere and was on my way to get my hair cut when I saw naked bike riders in the distance. I had my phone with me and started snapping, and kept on snapping. They were very friendly and I loved it. What an opening up of life. Just wonderful.

I have thought about public acts and private acts before. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? as the song goes. I imagined a different world – a world where everyone was ‘doing it’ in the road. Imagine going to the shops and seeing couples copulating all down the road. Every day.

I see that what makes private actions valuable to us is that we keep them private. We reduce humanity if we do not keep a place for the private.

But this happy public event was positive. Just a little shake to loosen the bonds of life we set for ourselves.

Exposure

Why aren’t the cyclists arrested for indecent exposure, a public display of nudity, or whatever the crime is that you might think they are committing?

In the UK, nudity itself is not illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The offence is set out in s.66 is under the heading of ‘exposure’ and it reads:

A person commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.

So it’s all in the intention.

The naked rambler (google for him) was arrested repeatedly. Somehow what one person probably cannot do, many together can do legally.

The Crown Prosecution Service has issued guidelines on possible offences which states

Recommended approach to naturism
Although every case should be considered according to its own facts and merits in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors a consistent approach to naturism should be adopted to maintain public confidence in the CPS. Where none of the features exist that would bring behaviour within the ambit of one of the offences set out in the section on Other offences that might involve nudity below, the recommended approach to naturism should be as follows.

In the absence of any sexual context and in relation to nudity where the person has no intention to cause alarm or distress it will normally be appropriate to take no action unless members of the public were actually caused harassment, alarm or distress (as opposed to considering the likelihood of this).

In this case such conduct should be regarded as at most amounting to an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986; and regard needs to be had to the question of whether a prosecution is in the public interest.

Other offences that might involve nudity – Exposure contrary to section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
This requires a person to intentionally expose their genitals and intend that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress. It is triable either way. Depending on the age of the defendant and the sentence that is imposed, an offender may be subject to the notification provisions (the sex offender register).

The need to prove that the person exposed their genitals intending that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress means that a naturist whose intention is limited to going about his or her lawful business naked will not be guilty of this offence.

The catch-all of disorderly behaviour under s.5 of the Public Order Act 1986, reads, under the heading ‘Harassment, alarm or distress.’:

A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or abusive, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

So I guess there is a fine line between the ‘intention’ of s.66 of the 2003 Act and the ‘disorderly behaviour’ under the 1986 Act – of public nudity but without intention to cause distress but which is likely to and does cause distress.

17 thoughts on “Cambridge Naked Bike Ride

  1. An engaging article, David. Ah, I am sorry that I missed this frolicking, fearless flight of fancy yesterday. Great weather for the occasion!

    BTW as your photos reveal, I am a bit surprised at how many people took part in the event. ‘Ride ’em cowboy’ UK style, eh?? 🤠

    Interesting analysis of yours regarding legality questions concerning this type of activity, thanks for including that here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, about the numbers – I think there is safety in numbers – safety from prosecution, that is. Has there been just a handful of people, I imagine there would have been a greater risk of them being stopped and prosecuted.

      I read a bit more and I saw that the riders agreed the route with the police beforehand.

      And I was thinking about how often the ride could take place before the authorities decided to take a different view. A weekly event, for example, might get a different reaction from the authorities.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joan E. Miller

    Oh how very funny! In Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, there is an annual Solstice Parade, and the highlight is a naked bike ride!! Only our riders generally paint their entire bodies, so you almost can’t see that they’re naked. I’ve never gone, but it took place yesterday. Coincidence?

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    1. Maybe it is worldwide naked bike ride day. But in that case, pity those in the Southern Hemisphere in the depths of winter 🙂

      Did you see the two with the blue bodies in these photos? Are your cyclists painted like that?

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  3. Such an interesting post! I don’t mean just the photos, but the legal aspect of all this. I can’t say I’m harassed by naked cyclists, but it’s weird and I’m not sure what I think about it. Do you happen to know if there is any idea or cause beyond the naked bike ride? Any explanation as to why ride bikes naked? I like this part of legislative that you quoted: “a naturist whose intention is limited to going about his or her lawful business naked” – hilarious!

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    1. I found out a bit more. There is a cause behind it – it is to oppose dirty energy and to promote individual power.

      If they were all dressed and rode up the main street in Cambridge at 8:30am, they would be indistinguishable from the morning rush-hour crowd.

      In a way, Cambridge is the worst and best place to do it to make the point about individual power and dirty energy. There are already so many cyclists here. This is the cycling capital of the UK. It is also not a healthy place – air pollution is high because so many vehicles converge on the city. It is a tiny place, overrun by its own popularity.

      Oh we humans are funny. Well, some are funny, and some are dangerous. Sorry, that’s me just letting my thoughts drift.

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      1. David, who said that air pollution is consistently high here? I think the air in general is lovely, including in the area where we live.

        I agree the main roads are certainly congested particularly at peak times (i.e. rush hour and the school run, both a.m. and p.m.).

        However, in general the ambiance strikes me as quite idyllic overall compared to many other places in which I and we have lived.

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        1. Cambridge City Council Air Quality Annual Status Report for 2015 states that the air quality varies depending on the time of year.

          Air quality apart from vehicle emissions is quite good at this time of year, but throughout the year in the narrow city centre streets and along the inner ring roads, and on roads with high traffic levels, nitrogen dioxide levels (from vehicle emissions) are higher than the legal limits.

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        2. Okay, you got me, I stand corrected.

          To me, however, Cambridge is truly idyllic and lovely. I think the trees and flowers here, for example, are gorgeous!

          I am sad to hear this. Naturally I realise our environment overall has been so compromised, but Cambridge strikes me as a relatively lovely place in so many areas of the city.

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        3. And so it is – a lovely place with lots of green, open spaces and trees. But hidden in the air unseen, on the roads in this tiny city lurk the pollutants. And I know it hurts you to know that the environment is suffering, just as it hurts me. The Council is not blind to the problems and they are improving the air quality. But some of it is out of their hands – think of diesel cars and their supposedly low levels of noxious fumes that were then exposed to be nothing of the kind.

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        4. Yes, it does hurt both of us to know this about the environment. Good that the Council is trying to improve the air quality. And yes, it’s sobering about the reality of the fumes diesel cars actually emit… Fingers crossed that things can and will be improved.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. I came across a company based here in Cambridge – Cambridge Mask Co – that makes masks that protect against air pollution. I have thought once or twice of getting masks for ‘if’ there is a particular problem with local pollution – a factory fire or whatever.

          Liked by 1 person

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