Our local version of the World Naked Bike Ride isn’t just an amazing cycling spectacle and one of the largest clothing-free rides on the planet, it’s also an illustration of what makes our city so great. That is, the level of coordination and respect between volunteer ride organizers and the Portland Police Bureau is something to be proud of.
For years now, ride organizers have worked very closely with Police staff on route selection and other details. Both are trying to strike a balance between free, unfettered fun and safe and civil behaviors that don’t cause too many issues for everyone involved. These negotiations and compromises are why we don’t see the route spend as much time downtown anymore and why there’s a big push to attend one of the many free after-parties instead of hanging out in a huge crowd at the finish line. Police and ride volunteers meet months in advance to trade concerns and hash out differences.
But there’s one compromise more important than any other: The fact that the police are willing to look the other way when they see fully nude adult bodies rolling gleefully down our public streets. Yes, technically it’s illegal to for adults to be naked in public if there’s someone of the opposite sex within view. Of course this law isn’t ironclad and there are court precedents around free speech and protest; but the police could make the Naked Bike Ride a lot less naked if they really wanted to (sort of like how they could have let Critical Mass continue if they would have permitted the illegal — but safe and entirely reasonable — practice of allowing large groups to roll through stop signs; but I digress).
Today the Portland Police issued the following official statement to clarify their position on this issue:
In past years, this event has drawn an estimated 10,000 bicycle riders. According to the World Naked Bike Ride website, the event is an annual, worldwide bike ride that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists everywhere and decries society’s dependence on pollution-based transport.
The Portland Police Bureau will have officers dedicated to the event to ensure everyone is safe and to provide assistance at intersections. There may be short traffic delays and drivers or non-participants are asked in advance for their patience.
Portland City Code 14A.40.030 (Indecent Exposure) states the following:
It is unlawful for any person to expose his or her genitalia while in a public place or place visible from a public place, if the public place is open or available to persons of the opposite sex.
Although many participants may violate the letter of the Portland City Code, the Police Bureau will be exercising discretion for this protest event as long as participants stay on the route with the rest of the riders. People who “start early” and potentially disrupt other neighborhood events not associated with the official ride may not receive the same discretion.
At a bare minimum, the Portland Police Bureau recommends that riders at least wear a helmet and shoes to avoid any potential injuries. Bike lights are also highly recommended for riders as well as plenty of water or fluids.
“Bare minimum.” Get it? They’re even having some fun with it.
With so much bad behavior by police and with high tensions among those we trust to uphold the law and those we expect to abide by them; it’s nice to know there are still avenues for respect and cooperation.
For more on what happens behind the scene of the Naked Bike Ride, see our story from last year.