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Friday, May 28, 2010

Vancouver Naked Biking: This is Not Portland.

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Naked in Portland: A-OK!
Local cyclist Matthew Vilhauer was pretty comfortable taking off his clothes. Maybe a little too comfortable. Biking naked around Vancouver, WA, last June got Vilhauer arrested and charged with indecent exposure. The jury in the trial came out with a hung verdict on the charge yesterday, but a phrase uttered by the prosecuting attorney during his closing argument is telling: "This isn't Portland."

A cyclist tested the limit of Portland's nudity laws last year when he cycled in his birthday suit down Alberta. That cyclist was arrested but eventually let off.

Vilhauer wasn't so lucky across the river. Three days after riding with 5,000 people through the streets of Portland in the 2009 World Naked Bike Ride, Vilahuer and about 20 friends took to the streets of Vancouver, WA, for a bar crawl by bike.

Vilhauer says he and a Vancouver friend were drinking in one of the bars at around 10 PM when the naked bike ride came up. Vilhauer says his friend didn't believe so many people would be up for biking naked, so Vilhauer proved a point by taking off his clothes, finishing his drink naked and then riding about a mile and a half around Vancouver before the cops caught up to him. According the Vilhauer and his lawyer, he was cuffed naked, put in the cop car naked and even registered into the jail naked, despite having his clothes in his messenger bag.

"The arresting officer did not allow me to put my clothes on," says Vilhauer. "They brought me into the jail, took my into a concrete room with a glass window and got my name."

A report from the trial in The Columbian points out that Vilhauer wasn't the only one naked, nor the first to shed his duds:

Adriane Ackerman, a self-employed small business consultant, said Vilhauer wasn’t the only cyclist who took off his clothes in Vancouver. She said she knows for certain she was topless, but couldn’t recall whether she wore pants.

“We do naked bike riding a lot in Portland in the summer, so it’s hard to remember,” Ackerman said.

Defense attorney Luka Vitasovic keys in on that defense for explaining why Vilhauer wasn't indecently exposing himself. "Five thousand people engaged in this behavior, it’s not like it’s a fringe thing," says Vitasovic. "How would be know that getting naked this time would have this kind of reaction?"

One member of the jury disagreed, however: the group split after four hours of deliberation with one holdout in favor of finding Vilhauer guilty. That means Naked Cyclist Defense Team will head back to court in July.

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