Bellingham man gets sole citation during naked bike ride

Only one of about 280 bicyclists was cited for indecent exposure during the annual naked bike ride in Bellingham on Friday, June 5, according to police.

Bicycle officers cited Christopher Ian O’Dell, 33, after someone called in and said they were specifically offended by him, said Sgt. Mike Scanlon.

The caller, who was not identified, described O’Dell as a naked man riding his bicycle with his young daughter riding behind on a “hitchhiker trailer,” Scanlon said. The person apparently pointed O’Dell out to the officers before the arrest.

The “totality” of O’Dell being naked, while his daughter rode on the bicycle trailer, might have led the person to report him, Scanlon said.

But O’Dell’s lawyer, Larry Hildes, said O’Dell was not actually naked, and the body parts in question were covered up. It was not clear Monday afternoon whether O’Dell would be charged with the misdemeanor.

“Obscenity is defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as inherently lewd or sexual content, specifically, and there’s certainly reams and reams of case law defining nudity as not necessarily obscenity if there is a First Amendment component,” Hildes said. “This was a demonstration, with very specific political messages that the nudity is integral to.”

This year was the seventh annual naked bike ride through downtown Bellingham. Riders participate for a variety of reasons, ranging from raising awareness about bicycle-safety and body-image issues, to protesting “indecent exposure” and fossil fuels. It is one of dozens of naked bike rides around the world.

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-715-2274 or samantha.wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com.