Published: 16:10, 29 May 2014
City council bosses have come under fire for telling people to "steer clear" of Canterbury if they might be offended by naked cyclists.
The authority posted the warning on its official Twitter account this afternoon as hundreds of bikers are expected to strip off and jump in the saddle for the World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday afternoon.
It said it issued the advice following complaints about last year's event, which forced organisers to impose strict rules on the upcoming ride.
But the tweet has sparked a furious response from city centre traders, who claim they could miss out on vital weekend business.
Among them is Gordon Hook, who runs Benji's sweet shop in St Peter's Street.
He said: "It's really out of order. How can they tell people to steer clear of the city centre, especially on a Saturday afternoon? Why should we lose out because of this event? The council is killing trade as it is.
"They're just a bunch of antiquated old farts."
Debbie Barwick, owner of Revivals in St Peter's Street, said: "It's an absolute disgrace.
"The only thing that might offend the people of this city is if all the councillors ride naked through the city."
Claire Williamson, from the Kings Mile Traders Association, who co-owns Mrs Jones Kitchen in Palace Street, said: "It's quite a heavy-handed approach that the council has adopted to warn people to stay away.
"We feel it's not wise to discourage customers from coming to the city centre at a peak time for local trade."
Laurissa Woolgar, who runs Siesta in the city’s Sun Street, added: “It seems really strange that the council would tweet that to be honest.
"We really hope that people don’t stay away from the city centre as Saturday is our busiest day.
“But I think a naked bike ride might actually bring custom into the town. People will want to see what’s going on and have a bit of a laugh."
The council has defended the tweet, describing it as a “one-off” warning to deal with a “specific issue”.
Spokesman Rob Davies said: “This was a specific message to advise people that if they are likely to be offended by this event, then they should steer clear for a couple of hours - not all day, or all year, just for that small window of time.
“The reality is the event will probably bring more people in than our message will deter from coming in.
“Nevertheless, last year there were complaints from people who were unaware and who would have preferred not to see this event - hence the posts on social media.
“If anyone can point to any other message we’ve ever put out suggesting people stay away, we’d love to see them try and find them, because they don’t exist. This was a one-off to deal with a specific issue.”
Bob Jones, from the Canterbury City Partnership, also says the warning was justified.
He said: "The council has a duty to warn people what will be happening. I think most people will understand that we have a wide range of events that happen in Canterbury.
"It's all part of being a city. I think it's something people will embrace to an extent. I can't imagine many people will be offended.
"But we're obviously interested in making sure Canterbury trades well as a city and copes with things that happen here."
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