Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published July 28th 2012
Get as bare as you dare
According to the Summary Offences Act of 1966 – the part of Victorian law that covers indecent exposure – it is illegal to "wilfully and obscenely" expose your genitalia in a public place. It's also illegal to get naked "within the view" of a public place; if your house borders a park or square, then presumably you're legally required to close your bedroom windows before you commence intimacy. The maximum penalty for breaching the Act is a whopping two years in prison, more than almost every other state or territory in Australia. Nevertheless, the Melbourne nude community soldiers on, clad in the strictly-metaphorical armour of righteousness. Due to their tireless work, it's still possible to strip off in public.
Every year, hundreds of Melbourne cyclists take off their clothes and participate in their leg of the World Naked Bike Ride. It's kind of a hippy thing – riders show up with flower necklaces and body paint – but there's a perverse twist. Due to the global nature of the event, Melbourne's turn happens to fall on the 21st of March – and there's another June ride, right in the middle of winter. It's held in the middle of Melbourne, too: the 2011 ride covered Brunswick St, Queensberry St and Lygon St. Just as you'd expect, one rider reports that "the cold caused some serious shrinkage". If nothing else, that sentence shows that Melbourne nudists are brave enough to deserve respect.
And they know it. (Picture from the Melbourne Leader)
The policy is "as bare as you dare", so participants are welcome to wear cycling shorts, speedos and of course helmets. Headbands and wristbands are common, and while the pace is slow, many cyclists wear bike gloves and proper cycle shoes. It's a ride, not a race: the only competition is in how flamboyantly you can decorate your body. Here are some work-safe photos from the Melbourne Leader.
While the general World Naked Bike Ride tries to raise awareness for body-positivity, environmental issues and the dangers of nuclear power, Melbourne's version focuses on the dangers that cyclists face from unaware motorists and unfriendly road design. It makes sense when you think about it: stripping off (especially in the middle of winter) is a quirky way to show how exposed and unprotected cyclists often feel on the road in general. It also opens the door for some groan-worthy wordplay, like this quote from the official website: "the Bailieu government has stripped all funding for bicycle projects from the budget. So we'll be stripping off our clothes to show our frustration..."
The March ride is about fifty times as large as the June ride, so it usually finishes in a park rather than a pub, but if you've got the stones to brave cold weather, the winter ride ends with a beer or three on Lygon St. In 2011 it was the Dan O'Connell, which generously (and possibly illegally) permitted the twenty-five or so cyclists to drink beer nude. This opens up a whole host of opportunities for Melbourne nudists. Not a cyclist? Still want to mingle with naked people? Check out where the 2013 winter ride is finishing, then just show up there without clothes when they do. You'll get kudos for finishing the ride, plus the once-a-year chance to hang around naked in a pub. Don't get too cosy, though – it's only a matter of time before somebody notices your lack of 'shrinkage' and calls you a fraud.