For the last six years, cyclists in Philly and elsewhere have bared all (or almost all), gently resting all that flesh on bikes riding through the public streets. And somehow, every year without fail, participants aren’t arrested for exposing their cash and prizes for the world to see.
This Saturday afternoon, the annual event will happen again. And again, it’s unlikely anyone will be pulled away in handcuffs or cited. So how is it possible that thousands of people can ride bikes naked through the streets in broad daylight without being arrested? How is this legal?
The short answer: It’s complicated; it’s semantics.
The Philly Naked Bike Ride, which has been happening in the city since 2009 and has amassed as many as 3,000 people in one fleshy go, is a sub-set of the World Naked Bike Ride and has become the second largest of its kind in the country (smaller than only Portland). The World Naked Bike Ride claims that this stuff is, for the most part, legal: It’s a protest movement that promotes cycling advocacy and positive body image.
“Philadelphia has been consistently named one of the top cycling cities in the country,” PNBR Street Team Captain Maria Serrahima said. “We have a huge amount of cyclists now, and the fact is that we have a lot of support.”
As for the Philly Naked Bike Ride itself, officials say they can only speak from experience. In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014 no incidents involving police were reported at PNBR, but police did dictate where and when the event’s starting location would be in 2012 — because a Sweet 16 party was nearby.
For context, the PA crime code on open lewdness reads: “A person commits a misdemeanor of the third degree if he does any lewd act which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.” (Emphasis mine.)
And this is where things get dicey. Serrahima said that it’s been explained to her that Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily prohibit being nude on a bike, but it’s in the event’s code of conduct that no lewd or crass gestures are allowed. So as long as you don’t wiggle your junk around, you’re good.
Serrahima said the group has coordinated with police to let them know that the event will take place and escorts will be around to keep the safety and the peace on the streets. Philadelphia Police confirmed to Billy Penn that they’re detailed to the event to ensure everything runs smoothly, and that participants won’t be arrested.
But PNBR — and the World Naked Bike Ride for that matter — have always been branded as “Bare As You Dare.” And organizers say that can mean two things: 1. Dare to break social norms (and kinda laws) or 2. Dare to just be naked in a group of 3,000 other people on a public street in the middle of a major city.
Here’s what else you need to know about the Philly Naked Bike Ride (now that you know it’s kind of legal, or at least you won’t be arrested for partaking):
The location and route of the actual ride will be announced 48 hours before the event (so sometime today). On Saturday, pre-ride festivities will begin at that location at about 12:30 p.m. The beginning of the 12-mile bike route will begin at 3 p.m. from that location. They’ll pass through several different “viewing areas,” and the ride will take between two and two-and-a-half hours.
Also worth noting: This ride is taken at a leisurely pace, and you don’t have to be a speed demon to take part.
You don’t have to be naked
While ride organizers encourage others to try the nudity thing, they say they’re not going to force anyone to do anything they’re uncomfortable with. Many people who take part in the event wear undergarments or use other ways to cover up their, uh, parts.
“I was one of those riders the first year I showed up, I wore a bra and shorts,” Serrahima said. “But throughout the years of riding, you just get more comfortable when you’re surrounded by 3,000 people who are all naked.”
In fact, you can get painted
Body Paint lead Matt Deifer sais artists will be offering free body painting at the pre-ride festivals, as they have in the past. Deifer and his professional artists from Bodypaint.Me have done their body art across the country, and will offer the splashes of paint for anyone who wants it at the Philly Naked Bike Ride. You’ll just line up, take your clothes (or most of them) off and get painted.
“Usually body painting is a very long process, but we try and keep it simple,” Deifer said, “with putting messages that demonstrate what we’re trying to achieve through our ride. That means body positive messages, curbing dependency on oil, and things like that.”
Indego hasn’t said you *can’t* use it
Look, I’m not encouraging spreading it out on a public bicycle this weekend. But when asked if Philly Naked Bike Ride cyclists could use Indego in the bike, officials from the bike-share company responded only by saying:
“Indego is proud to be a part of the transportation network of Philadelphia, helping people get around in a fun and affordable way. We’re proud of offering a new choice for Philadelphians and always ask that riders obey the rules of the road when riding Indego.”
They didn’t respond to a request for clarification, so.
How to get involved
Just show up to ride, no registration needed. Click here for more information on volunteering. Go forth and ride. Junk, and all.