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Monday, March 29, 2010

Kiwi Biker Wins Right to Bicycle Naked

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin

Naked cyclist Nick Lowe wears a helmet photo
Image: Craig Simonox, Dominion Post and TVNZ

Nick Lowe, of Johnsonville, New Zealand, pulls on bike shorts and a t-shirt when he climbs on to pedal away through the city. But as soon as he hits the open road, a "change of clothes" is on the agenda. The t-shirt graces Lowe's handlebars. The bike shorts he carefully arranges on the saddle so that the chamois seat pad still performs as point of contact. "The majority of the public has no issues with it," Lowe told TV New Zealand.

But one person did take offense. And took Lowe to court. Lowe explains the philosophy behind his fight in a YouTube video. And we look at the verdict: does it mean a free-for-all for nudists in New Zealand?

Lowe first suspected trouble when a car driven by a woman on her cell phone passed him, slowly. She pulled over to let Lowe pass by. Then drove past him again, slowly. In all, the woman took advantage of the "offensive" scene fully five times. Curious about the strange behavior, Lowe assessed his new admirer. The look on her face convinced the fit 40-year old cyclist that she was not enjoying the view. Shortly thereafter, Lowe was pulled over by the police.

Lowe represented himself at the trial. He walked away with a NZ$200 (US$140) fine, and court costs, on his tab. The Johnsonviller decided to fight. On appeal, he took his lawyer. And walked away with a singular precedent.

Justice Clifford of the Wellington High Court ruled that Mr. Lowe's behavior did not meet the standard of "offensive." According to reports in Der Spiegel (German), the ruling determined that one person finding a behavior offensive is not sufficient to support a conviction for offensive behavior.

Now when Lowe takes to his bike, he applies his chafe cream liberally, and packs one additional item under the saddle: a copy of the verdict. But does his case clear the path for nudists of all stripes? Not so fast: analyses of the Justice's ruling point out that it is specific to the behavior in question in this particular case. Walking nude on a public path may be evaluated differently than a bicyclist on a country road.

So what about world naked bike day activities? Nude activism in organized demonstrations is judged by a different standard: if people are aware of a planned activity to which they might take offense, they have the right to stay away. Did it help Lowe's case? The Justice chuckled as he viewed photos of other activities on world naked bike day, which happens to be precisely the day on which one woman took offense at a naked cyclist on a rural route.

If you are interested, Lowe tells his story to Close-Up for TV New Zealand.