Why don’t cyclists at Exeter’s Naked Bike Ride get arrested for nudity?

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Exeter’s Naked Bike Ride is set to make a return this weekend – and whether we like it or not under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, public nudity isn’t strictly illegal.

Nude bike riders will be taking to the streets of Exeter on Saturday, June 24, when the World Naked Bike Ride makes a return to the city.

The event is organised by environmental campaigners as part of World Naked Bike Ride and it will be the sixth nude ride to take place in Exeter.

One of the organisers Graham May said that their protest is about cycling safety.

He said: “We ride naked to illustrate the vulnerability of cyclists on the road.”

The World Naked Bike Ride is all about promoting road safety and highlighting the vulnerability of cyclists.

But if you have walked through Exeter High Street while the event is going on you might get an eyeful of bare flesh.

However if someone decides to drop their trousers in the middle of Exeter’s club chucking out time, then it’s likely you would get a tap on the shoulder from the police.

So why is it okay to bare all on a bicycle in broad daylight once a year?

Turns out being starkers in public isn’t illegal

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 – being nude in public is permissible, as long as it’s not done to intentionally cause harassment, alarm or distress.

It’s sentiment echoed by The Crown Prosecution Service also.

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Don’t act offensively and you are unlikely to be arrested

Whether you’re riding in Exeter or any of the other routes around the country, such as London , Brighton, Manchester etc, there is almost no risk of being nicked if you are well behaved.

So the police won’t do anything about it?

Police say they are fully aware of the annual bike protests, the routes and the nudity it involves.

But that doesn’t mean that police won’t take action if the need arises.

Such as?

For example in 2015, at a naked bike ride in Kent, a cyclist was hauled from the start line and spoken to by officers following reports that he had an erection.

He was ordered to put his jeans on and was not allowed to take part in the event – his personal details were recorded but no further action was taken.

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So the absence of any sexual content is a key factor?

Yes – along with those three buzzwords of harassment, alarm or distress – otherwise it could be regarded, according to the CPS, as an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which carries with it the possibility of prosecution, provided it’s deemed in the public interest.

So how to I make sure I don’t inadvertently see more than I bargained for?

If you’re out and about in Exeter on the day itself it’s probably best to familiarise yourself with the route and the times, that way you can ensure you stay well clear of all the bare bums on saddles.

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The race will start and finish at Trews Weir Floodplain. Riders can also have the option to have their bodies painted at 11am, the riders will assemble at midday and the ride will start at 1pm.

The first world naked bike ride was held in Exeter in June 2011 when more than 40 cyclists rode down the city’s High Street.

Eleanor Lister led the campaign to bring the event to Exeter after taking part in other cities across the country.

Speaking in 2011 she said: “There are 5,000 regular cyclists in Exeter, and we needed to get them together to get the message across that cars need to give us space. People actually need to get out of their cars to make the city a better place for everybody.”

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