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Clacton Naked Bike Ride 2019 – Barely tolerated

31 Aug 2019

After London, Brighton and Chelmsford, my final World Naked Bike Ride of 2019 would be by the Essex coast at Clacton-on-Sea. Unique voting patterns had earned this place labels like UKIP-Town and Brexit-on-Sea but I wanted to find out how the supposed ‘Little Englander’ majority would react to naked protesters on its streets.

The Conservative council’s intolerance had manifested in 2013 after the first Clacton naked bike ride when their leader pledged “a halt to naked events” in the area. The silly daft sod failed, of course, but subsequent rides have taken place under a raft of local regulations and police notices.

Local regulations

The following regulations apply in the town centre on roads and footpaths:

  • no bells or horns apart from bicycle bells and horns
  • no loud whistles of any kind
  • no loud music until the ride passes the cinema
  • no unicycles
  • no skateboards
  • no roller blades
  • no roller skates
  • no scooters

Only bicycles may be used on this ride as local town laws forbid the use of the above items in the town centre.

Notice to participants from Clacton Police

As advertised on the website, this is about worldwide environmental protest against the destructive elements of car culture and a celebration of the bicycle and the body. It is not about promoting ‘Naturism’, and as such is being allowed to proceed over the right to protest.

Please familiarise yourself with the attached legislation, which will be positively enforced by the police if necessary, particularly Section 66.

Section 66 Sexual Offences Act – a person commits an offence if-

(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress

There is other legislation but this is the most important one.

Please be aware that if any item of clothing is worn by a person other than socks, shoes, hats and gloves then either the female or male genitalia must be covered. If this is not the case then the police will in effect take it that you are deliberately trying to draw attention to your genitalia, thus having the intention to cause harassment alarm or distress to onlookers. It must be stressed that any adornment on the body deliberately worn to draw attention to either the male or female genitalia will also be treated the same.

No person under the age of 18 are allowed to participate – naked or otherwise.

We would ask that you be considerate and respectful to both the local and tourist population as Clacton is promoted as family-orientated seaside resort. Please remember that not everyone will be of the same thought as yourselves and many may find your actions distasteful and insulting.

The aim of the police:

  • to ensure the safety of the public, event participants and police personnel
  • to minimise the disruption to other road users
  • to ensure the participants act within the spirit of the event

Against the background of these ludicrously prim decrees, I arrived at Clacton-on-Sea station around quarter to one in the afternoon. The ride was scheduled to start at 2pm so I had ample time to grab a sandwich from Sainsbury’s then cycle to the beach for a leisurely lunch before we set off.

Rain or shine

More than officialdom, the factor most likely to dampen this ride was the weather. As I sat by the sea, eating my sandwich, I started to notice exceptionally dark clouds were mustering from the south. All week the forecast had threatened rain around 2pm; now here it was, bang on cue and in spades.

1:23pm on Clacton seafront: storm clouds amassing

As the time approached 1:45pm I joined other riders assembling in the Toby Carvery car park a short distance along the coast. No sooner had I propped my bike against a fence than the first drops fell. By the time I found shelter under the restaurant’s eaves there was full lightning show in progress. Fair play to those who remained out in it.

1:58pm at the Toby Carvery car park: after the deluge

Personally I would have waited for the storm to clear, but I had a feeling the hardcore riders would start on time, come what may. Mercifully both happened. With about two minutes to go, the rain fizzled out. I dashed to my bike, stripped naked in record time, saddled up and was ready to go. Just three minutes late, we were off.

2:05pm leaving the Toby Carvery car park: the ride begins

2:07pm on Wash Lane: a last glance to the departing clouds

2:09pm on Wash Lane: taking a short-cut along Arnold Road

From the car park on Marine Parade West, we took an early turn right into Wash Lane and right again into Arnold Road, at the end which we rejoined Wash Lane. Press and tittering bystander photographers had been present at the start to see us leave but on the open road we were just 20 guys, plus 1 woman in high heels and a lace catsuit…

2:10pm on Wash Lane: with our First Aid escort

Brightening up

From Old Road we took a hairpin right turn down Pier Avenue then looped around to the left on Rosemary Road and High Street. By the time we reached its junction with Carnarvon Road the pavements were drying, the sky was becoming ever more blue, and we were warming with the day.

2:12pm on Wash Lane: about to roll on to Old Road

2:17pm on Pier Avenue: a bit more undressing required

2:18pm on Rosemary Road: not quite ready to hit the town centre

Left at Carnarvon Road and a right at Oxford Road started us upon what would be a broad anti-clockwise arc around the east, north and west of town. The east side was mostly large retail outlets and business terrain without many people on the streets. It felt like we were yet to bring our awareness-raising protest properly to the masses.

2:20pm on High Street: waiting to turn left on to Carnarvon Road

2:22pm on Carnarvon Road: heading north past the railway station on the right

2:31pm on Oxford Road: leaving behind big business and going residential again

The outer rim

Out of Oxford Road and on to Valley Road, we now began our long gentle curve over the top of the town. Passing The Ship Inn, we moved on to St John’s Road where we remained for more than a mile. This was a residential road but also one with very few pedestrians. Maybe most were staying safely behind their net curtains.

2:32pm on Valley Road: no time to stop for a drink, alas

2:34pm on St John’s Road: traditional shop window self at Reg’s Fish and Kebab

2:36pm on St John’s Road: look away now in you’re not keen on the human body

2:42pm on St John’s Road: straight across the Peter Bruff roundabout

We left St John’s Road via a turn south onto Cloes Lane, pausing in a bus lay-by near its top end for a rest. The day was now properly warm, but the ride had been pleasant so far and felt positive. A few people turned away but more cheered or tooted their car horns in solidarity. We certainly weren’t seeing the negativity shown by the council.

2:45pm on Cloes Lane: resting at the bus lay-by, maybe in need of a good meal

2:47pm on Cloes Lane: shooting a little footage for Twitter

Simpletons strike

Cloes Lane became St Osyth Road, where another brief rest break coincidentally put us near a garden party in full swing – cue more whoops and photographs. Indeed the response to our presence remained generally upbeat, till we took a left into Old Road and had a ten minute stop by the public toilets. Then things turned nasty…

3:01pm on St Osyth Road: waving to a friendly driver

3:03pm on St Osyth Road: a left turn back on to Old Road

Just as we were slowing down, our front riders got a barrage of abuse from a carload of young men who – embarrassingly immature for their age – said they were going to come back “with eggs“. They might have been a bit simple, but this definitely counted as a violent threat so their car number plate was noted and we got photos of faces.

3:07pm on Old Road: taking a break by the public loos

A few minutes later I heard a couple of soft thuds on the grass nearby. I knew straight away what it was: eggs. The spineless cowards had returned, parked their car behind trees in a road behind the toilet block and were blindly chucking eggs over the top. All missed, of course. We approached them but they sped off, bravely calling us names.

3:11pm on Old Road: heroes who ‘attacked’ us – details now with the police

3:11pm on Old Road: thrown and missed – a waste of good eggs

What is it about the naked human body that some people simply can’t deal with? We were participating in a recognised protest ride – one of many around the world – with police permission. We did not wish to offend, only to be noticed and raise awareness. The irony of vulnerable cyclists being attacked from a car, however, was not lost…

WNBR is a worldwide campaign that demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists and protests against car culture. Its linked objectives are to:

  1. protest against the global dependency on oil
  2. curb car culture
  3. obtain real rights for cyclists
  4. demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets
  5. celebrate body freedom

3:12pm on Old Road: excitement over, off we went

First pass through the centre

From Old Road we took a sharp right down onto Wellesley Road, then left back onto Carnarvon Road and right at Station Road. Here we made a very brief courtesy stop outside the council offices – “they hate us“, remarked one rider, perhaps mindful that hate breeds violence – before continuing to the very heart of town.

3:13pm on Wellesley Road: starting our descent to the town centre

3:18pm on Carnarvon Road: right turn on to Station Road

3:18pm on Station Road: a quick breather at the public library

3:19pm on Station Road: outside the Council – they don’t like us!

There was already a joyful party atmosphere in Clacton’s busy centre, so the sudden unexpected arrival of naked people on bicycles only added to the carnival. All around us cheers, phone cameras and beer glasses were raised in approval. We might have seemed unimaginably weird but we put smiles on faces, and maybe that’s enough.

3:21pm on Station Road: looping round Pier Avenue for maximum cheers

3:22pm on Pier Avenue: about to loop back on Jackson Road

3:24pm on West Avenue: right hand down to Agate Road

Station Road had taken us to Pier Avenue, which looped up and round on to Jackson Road. From there we turned left on West Avenue, right on Agate Road, and left again on Marine Parade West. We weren’t done with the town centre yet, however, so a left at Angelfield leading once more onto Carnarvon Road, primed us for another pass.

3:26pm on Marine Parade West: riding alongside the seafront at last

Second pass through the centre

Again we turned onto Station Road and cycled its length, but this time at its southern end we swung left onto Pallister Road, left again up Colne Road and then right along Rosemary Road. One final right onto Beach Road brought us back to Marine Parade West. The sunshine was glorious – perfect for a naked bike ride by the sea.

3:31pm on Carnarvon Road: taking Station Road from the opposite direction

3:31pm on Station Road: outside Clacton Conservatives – they don’t like us either!

3:34pm on Station Road: once more towards Pier Avenue but now turning left instead

3:37pm on Beach Road: preparing for a final pass along the seafront

Marine parade

Our home straight took us a bit over a kilometre along the seafront, passing bars, the pier, beaches and gardens. We got a bit of hostility from one bar but more insidious, I thought, was a businessman outside his entertainment premises telling us: “go home, you’re not wanted here“. This, at last, was the local establishment petite bourgeoisie.

3:39pm on Marine Parade East: a wave to the Moon and Starfish

3:39pm on Marine Parade West: past the pier…

After almost an hour and three-quarters on the road, we were finally back at the Toby Carvery, now much drier than when we’d left it. This had been a fascinating ride in so many regards. Clacton’s self-appointed moral guardians do its people a disservice by trying to deny them exposure to legitimate peaceful protest. People mostly approved.

3:43pm on Marine Parade West: …and back to the Toby Carvery

3:44pm at the Toby Carvery car park: Thank you, Clacton!

I dressed and pushed my bike back along the seafront path. With time left till my train back to London, I sat on the beach once more, eating another sandwich and enjoying the sunshine. I’d last been here to join in a Marie Curie Cancer Care charity skinny dip – the naked body is not evil, so let’s respect each other and keep using it well.

Our route from the Toby Carvery and back

More on WNBR Clacton 2019

Postscript – March 2021

The primary party responsible for hurling abuse and eggs at us in Old Road was convicted for his actions at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court in March 2021:

From → Causes

One Comment
  1. boykog permalink

    Love the image in front of Clacton Conservatives….;-)

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