Harvest Century September 22nd

Portland Police won’t bust naked riders, as long they go with the flow

Posted by on June 23rd, 2017 at 11:48 am

Official graphic from Portland Police Bureau.

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).

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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.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

27 Comments
  • Avatar
    Matthew in Portsmouth June 23, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I love participating in this event. I do not, however, get in the spirit and out of my clothes until I reach the starting point, and I put my clothes back on when I prepare to leave. Not being a drinker, the after parties are not my thing, but go for it if you feel like it.

    If you choose to participate, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be the superlative of any adjective you can think of (thinnest, fattest, ugliest, prettiest etc.).

    It’s great that it’s going to be a warm night.

    The hat passers will be there to raise money for the event – my rule of thumb is $5 per article of clothing you are going to wear on the ride – in my case that’s my helmet, socks and shoes.

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    CaptainKarma June 23, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I’d like to hear a statement of leadership by the mayor. Beforehand.

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    John Lascurettes June 23, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Sorry, Oregon State Constitution supersedes local ordinances. Tested in court. This empty warning comes from the PPD every year.

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    VRU June 23, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    This piece is factually incorrect.

    Public nudity without the intent to arouse is recognized as a form of constitutionally protected speech in OR. Moreover, legal precedent indicates that the Portland ordinance does not apply to nudity that is “intended as a protected symbolic or communicative act”.

    https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5604655440603670467&hl=en&as_sdt=6,38

    https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3994794089534479082&hl=en&as_sdt=6,38

    https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/163.465

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      Chris I June 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      When have laws ever stopped the police from telling people what they can and can’t do? You may be right, but you don’t want to spend a night in jail on some BS charge they will drop a week later. They know this, and that’s why they act the way they do.

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      JTR June 23, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      That has also always been my understanding in OR. I have seen several random nude people over the years, some talking to police, and the police then leaving. A few years ago there was a naked guy downtown near my office, and the cops told a female co-worker who asked about it that there was nothing he could do about it until the guy did something sexually suggestive. This must be a new city policy….but I would think that in a courtroom situation, legal precedence would prevail.

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      Kyle Banerjee June 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      All true. You have the right to do and say all kinds of things. Doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a good idea.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty June 23, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    And there’s always something to protest: PBA, PBR (tastes as nasty as the PBA does), new bike lanes that aren’t 30ft wide, shuttle bus drivers at the zoo, car drivers at the zoo, bicycles at the zoo, music selection at the zoo, small trees at ugly developments, bike lanes that go both ways on one side of the street, Amanda Fritz, being punched in the head and having your bike stolen, beards, Republicans, dogs that bark at cats, Big Oil, Little Oil, squirrels (cute, tasty, but oh so hard to catch), and, well, I could go on for some time.

    Suffice it to say, I’m covered if the police decide to go all anti-naked on us.

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    Bilbo June 23, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    That fake law is transphobic.

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    Justin M June 23, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Another year goes by and again I can’t go. They scheduled this ride on the same day as my wedding and I somehow doubt my conservative Mormon family, already attending my gay wedding, would be up for us riding away naked at the end of it. Plus, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of clean up to do when the party’s over. Oh well, ya’ll have fun for me.

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    Ted Buehler June 23, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    PPB is only partially correct here. Because it’s legal being naked if you are exercising your right to free speech (as per the Oregon constitution, as cited above).

    If you want to be legal riding naked anywhere, anytime, in Oregon, you need to be actively exercising your right to free speech. So, if you have any particular issue you’re concerned or passionate about, be ready to let anyone who asks know. Or just write/paint it on your body so nobody even needs to ask.

    And, to keep it well within the law, call attention to your cause (not your body) when interacting with clothed folks, stay off private property, be nice, etc.

    Also, this:
    https://bikeportland.org/2008/11/12/judge-throws-out-charges-in-naked-biking-case-says-it%E2%80%99s-a-%E2%80%9Cwell-established-tradition%E2%80%9D-in-portland-10676

    FWIW
    Ted Buehler

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    Steve Scarich June 24, 2017 at 8:29 am

    ‘so much bad behavior by police’…geez, Jonathan, your bias is just so attractive.

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      bendite June 24, 2017 at 10:55 am

      He’s not here to turn you on!

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      q June 24, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Why does writing “so much bad behavior by police” show bias?

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        Steve Scarich June 25, 2017 at 9:25 am

        Because it was written as a ‘news’ article, and then Jonathan felt the need to thrown in his gratuitous, irrelevant judgement about police for no particular reason, other than he can.

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          q June 25, 2017 at 10:29 am

          Why would you assume it was written as a pure “news” article? The bikeportland banner says “bikeportland.org–to inform AND inspire” (my caps) not “to inform neutrally”.

          More importantly, the column was about the police approach to the event. Bad police behavior is one of the top current news topics, and it’s prevalent enough that calling it “bad” is factual reporting, not just an opinion.

          Jonathan wrote, “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.”

          To me, that’s a perfect summation of the point of the column. Calling other police behavior “bad” in that context is factual reporting. If this WERE a pure news reporting piece (which it isn’t) in fact the bias would be the “nice to know…” part, which is positive towards the police, not negative.

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    q June 24, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    The headlines claims police won’t bust naked riders, but last year I witnessed numerous busts.

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      John Lascurettes June 24, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      But were they busted simply because they were naked or for other reasons? I’ve never been even given the side eye by a cop when riding home post ride (when it’s been warm enough to stay naked). Nor when joining up with the ride, already naked.

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        q June 24, 2017 at 5:00 pm

        The busts I recall were naked.

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          9watts June 25, 2017 at 6:31 am

          Anyone have a ride report? I bet the temps were good.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty June 25, 2017 at 9:57 am

            Just like last year… numerous busts.

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              Tom Hardy June 25, 2017 at 1:10 pm

              Yes Kitty and so was kitty:D

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              John Lascurettes July 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

              But what were they busted for? Nobody knows. Unless you heard directly from those busted or the cops that it was for public nudity I’m betting it was for other offenses (simply because the nudity thing would never stick — ahem).

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    Hotrodder June 25, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Good route, good afterparty in the fountain, great spectators ready to slap hands all along the route. The usual buzzkill comments over on Oregon Live.
    See you all at Loud and Lit this Friday!!!

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    K Taylor June 25, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    I’ve run into this event two years in a row now while trying to get home at night alone on my bike. I understand that the impulse behind it is good natured, but it’s kind of creepy.

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    Matthew in Portsmouth June 26, 2017 at 10:40 am

    This was my third year, thoroughly enjoyed the ride. There were people of all ages and body types participating. I saw a pre-teen boy riding with his dad (I’m guessing) and plenty of people in the 20 – 65+ age groups. Saw some very fit, athletic bodies, as well as plenty of people carrying extra weight – one of the aims of the protest is to promote body positivity.

    The evening was warm, so it was comfortable to strip off and hang out in Fernhill Park before hand, and the ride was comfortable. Fernhill is closer to where I live than the last two starting locations so that was a bonus. I thought the crowd was exceptionally mellow and well behaved. I smelled pot smoke from time to time, but nobody appeared to be overtly intoxicated. The only beverage on sale appeared to be Yerba Mate, and they were assiduously collecting the empty cans.

    We set off at 9 p.m. and headed towards NE Sandy, over the Burnside Bridge, down Third Ave, left at the Federal Courthouse and into the Waterfront Park. My only problem was my rear tire started to leak (faulty valve stem I think) – I had checked my bike over during the afternoon, so I was kind of annoyed (I must have damaged the stem when I was pumping the tire). I noticed this at 8.45, and had to make the decision – inflate and hope for the best, or change the tube. I inflated and hoped for the best – only had to reinflate once on NE Sandy Blvd, but thrice more before I got home.

    A lot of people ride naked to the event and home again – my husband doesn’t like me to do this (I think he thinks I’ll get arrested), so I kept my gear on until I got to the park, and rerobed before heading home.

    There were a lot of voyeurs (fully clothed, no bike) at Fernhill Park, I suggested to the volunteer donation collectors that they ask them for $100. I mean, if you’re nude in public you have no expectation of privacy, but really, it’s not meant to be an opportunity to be a looky loo.

    I volunteered to help clean up Fernhill on Sunday. I was really pleased that the park was in really good shape. The volunteers who stayed to clean up after the protest set off did a really great job at cleaning up after everyone. Plus I think that most people didn’t bring anything to leave behind, and there were no food vendors, so I guess that helps.

    A great time had by all.

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    Matthew, Colorado June 29, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    My wife and I are working here in the PNW temporarily. We heard about the ride and it sounded like great fun. It was! Great fun!! I loved the way the police shut down the intersections to keep us safe. I heard one clothed guy, camera in hand, at Fernhill Park say “It’s just an excuse for the guys to run around naked.” I noticed that he attended a cycling event without a bicycle. I wonder what his excuse was? Anyway, thanks Portland for helping us get weird! Best city ever!

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