The Portsmouth leg of the World Naked Bike Ride will take place this Thursday after the city council insisted it was a police matter after it received a petition signed by 1,500 locals seeking to stop the ride. Similar rides held in other British cities last weekend have received a warmer reception from police and locals and passed off without incident.
The Manchester Evening News reported that 150 cyclists there had taken part in a naked ride through the city centre, the sixth time it has been held there, and that police had adopted “a laid back approach.”
Organiser Sean Fitton told the newspaper: “The police were lovely. They escorted us all the way and even took us to some parts of the city that were not on the planned route – they were fantastic."
A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police added: "We did receive a couple of complaints – one person said they were left ‘uncomfortable’ by seeing six naked 60-year-olds in all shapes and sizes.
"But there were no arrests. The police attitude was whatever floats your boat."
In York, local newspaper The Press welcomed last Saturday’s ride there with a good-natured editorial.
“Saturday’s naked bike ride sent as strong a message as the poverty report, but in a fun way,” it said.
“It was the sixth running of the event, and riders set off from Millennium Bridge to raise awareness of cycling and encourage people to choose more environmentally friendly modes of transport.
“As ever, cyclists daubed themselves with logos or showed only a certain amount of flesh.
“Others, though, were happy to express their barefaced cheek.
Let’s hope they remembered their factor 15.”
The thought of cyclists baring all as they ride through city streets appears to have met a frostier reception from some locals in Portsmouth, however.
There, the petition was organised by 38-year-old church employee Sarah Carter, who told Portsmouth News: “We’ve had a lot of mums signing, as well as members of the Christian and Muslim communities and surprisingly lots of university students.
“All we’re asking is for them to put their clothes on and not upset or distress residents.”
She added that council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson had turned down an offer to meet her yesterday, maintaining that it was an issue for the police to deal with.
Ian Henden, organiser of the ride in Portsmouth, which like its sister events is designed to celebrate the human body and highlight the vulnerability of cyclists on the road as well as oil dependency, told the BBC: "The people in Portsmouth have been stirred up, we feel by a small core, of which Sarah Carter is one."
He added: "There is a very common phrase in the cycling world known as the SMIDSY - sorry mate I didn't see you - it usually happens when a car or lorry driver has knocked a cyclist off their bike, but they'll certainly see us on Friday."
The BBC report adds that nudity is not in itself an offence where there is no intention to cause alarm or distress to another person.
A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary told the BBC: "We've been in contact with the event organisers who have assured us they do not intend to cause alarm or distress. Police will be on duty for the ride to prevent or deal with any apparent offences reported."
Besides Portsmouth, Manchester and York, other towns and cities in the UK participating in the World Naked Bike Ride this year are Southampton (10 June) Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter and London (11 June), Brighton (12 June) and Bristol (19 June). Full details can be found on the World Naked Bike Ride UK website.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.