Sussex Police Cover-Up At Brighton's First World Naked Bike Ride
World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) to go ahead in Brighton and Hove on Saturday 10 June 2006, but Chief Superintendent rules against exposure of "rude bits"
June 05, 2006, Press Dispensary. In a complete U-turn, Chief Superintendent Jeremy Paine has overruled the previously positive guidance given by Sussex Police on Brighton's first ever World Naked Bike Ride, taking place on Saturday 10 June. Following unspecified public complaints, he has said that the ride can go ahead but people will be arrested for Public Order offences if they expose their "rude bits".
In contrast, the London ride will take place on the same day with Metropolitan Police tolerance of full nudity and a cycling police escort that will help to manage traffic. 300-400 people are expected to take part in London's third ride, 50-100 in Brighton's first.
Cyclists and skaters are invited by Brighton ride organisers to respond creatively to the police ruling by wearing fig leaves, fake topiary, "censored" signs and pubic wigs. They can also bring materials (e.g. leaves, cardboard, fake hedge, fur fabric, elastic) to make coverings at a pre-ride workshop.
The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is an annual celebration of cycling and the human body taking place in dozens of cities worldwide, mostly on 10 June 2006. The ride demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists and is a protest against oil dependency. People including environmentalists, naturists and exhibitionists are urged to "be there, as bare as you dare!"
Members of WNBR in Brighton and London have been proactive in working with the police to ensure that rides go smoothly and within the law. In Brighton, Sussex Police initially agreed with WNBR at a meeting on 5 May that public nudity of this kind is not in itself an offence under British law, and that they would not be responding to individual complaints based on morality or distaste.
Chief Superintendent Jeremy Paine has since overturned this guidance, threatening naked participants with arrest under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. Police who attended the first meeting expressed their apologies and disappointment about this decision at a recent emergency meeting with WNBR.
CS Paine was absent from both meetings and has turned down requests from WNBR to discuss the matter. WNBR is still hoping to clarify what he means by "rude bits", as only genitals are mentioned in the relevant sections of the Public Order Act and Sexual Offences Act.
The ride has the support of Keith Taylor, Convenor of Brighton Green Councillors, who said: "The World Naked Bike Ride is an effective way of getting the serious message across that all road users are vulnerable to fumes and accidents, despite what the prudish police are saying. 32,000 people died prematurely last year from respiratory disease, the majority of which is caused by cars. Now that is offensive!"
Nick Sayers, WNBR Brighton & Hove coordinator, said: "The threat of arrest is bizarre. Like neighbouring London, Brighton is supposed to be a cosmopolitan, forward-thinking city. However, it seems the attitude of the authorities here is still that of a provincial, prudish backwater.
"The threat of arrest under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 is unfair, and possibly unlawful, given that the intention of riders is not to 'harass, alarm or distress', as stated in the act. Public nudity of this sort is permitted under the Exposure section of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which replaced the outdated 'indecent exposure' laws.
"We're bombarded in daily life with sexual images of scantily-clad, 'perfect' bodies. In contrast, WNBR is intended as a non-sexual celebration of the human body. The insistence that we cover up with underwear and swimming costumes, far from de-sexualising the ride, will make it more so.
"We sense that the police are using the Public Order Act as a catch-all to neuter this protest, despite the fact that it barely applies and would be unlikely to result in convictions. The worldwide rides mostly consist of naked smiling cyclists, and have never resulted in wide-scale panic or the downfall of civil order. Prudes can look away if they're so easily offended.
"The thousands of people who witnessed the ride in London last year were overwhelmingly enthusiastic, supportive and entertained. Only one complaint was received by the Metropolitan Police after the ride."
Following a pre-ride body and bike decorating workshop at 9am, the Brighton ride will start at 10am from The Level park (BN2 3FX). It will go via a number of famous locations including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Pier and Kemptown before finishing at Black Rock naturist beach. The route avoids hills for riders' comfort.
The London ride starts at 3pm from Wellington Arch (SW1X 7LY). Participants can thereby take part in both rides if they travel, clothed, by train.
Both rides should last just over an hour and a half.
Manchester and York are also staging rides, starting at 6pm, the day before Brighton and London.
Participants will need to bring bikes or skates, a minimum of clothing, bags to carry clothes, and whistles or bells. The event is free.
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Notes for editors
For background details of this event, please refer to our previous press
WNBR is a grassroots movement with rides planned around the world. Control is decentralised and depends on local, voluntary planning. Naked protest bike rides have been taking place in Spain since 2001 and worldwide since 2004. In 2005, more than 35 cities participated in WNBR, up from 25 in 2004. 250 people rode in London last year, up from 60 in 2004.
All UK rides are officially endorsed by Bike Week (17-25 June), the annual celebration of cycling.
In Brighton, bikes can be hired from Planet Cycles, next to West Pier (01273 748881). A 10% discount is available to riders who mention WNBR.
There is a draft map of the route at http://gmap-pedometer.com/?r=143955.
Stock photography of previous London rides is available at the following sites (search for "london naked bike ride"):
Rex Features (Photographer: Paul Brown)
Further images are available for use by sympathetic publications, non-profit organisations and charities. Details on request (discretionary).
http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/ (global promotion site) http://wiki.worldnakedbikeride.org/ (global information site)
http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/wiki/brighton (Brighton and Hove info)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wnbr-brighton/ (Brighton and Hove group)
Commentary on the Public Order Act and Sexual Offences Act:
For further information please contact:
Duncan Blinkhorn / Nick Sayers, Ride co-organisers
Brighton Naked Bike Ride
Tel: +44 (0) 7944 152706 / +44 (0) 7812 036415
Jesse Schust, WNBR London/UK coordinator
Mob: 07814 587361
Graham Lee, WNBR London/UK press officer
Mob: 07956 261902