Two girls rode in front of me as I start up the Prinsengracht, one pedaling while the other sat on the back, looking onto the calmly lit canal with probably the same reverence that I had that night, the tingling excitement of the city enhanced the view seen many times over. We trailed a black Audi heading in the same direction. Slowly the number of pedestrians increased as we rode up toward the center, accompanied by their chatter and clinking, laughing and singing, pushing and playing. The dad just picked up his daughter to see better, a couple walked hand in hand, and, oh, a taxi just pulled behind us. The drab colored van followed, wary to pass the double passenger bike ahead of me; we kept riding sandwiched between two cars underneath the yellow city lights. The girls unapologetically occupied the road.
Biking at night twinkles with light moments and none, but imagined to be, adventures. Pedestrians who wander into bike lanes encourage a close enough ride by to playfully spook their little jump onto the sidewalk. Sometimes so close their cologne still remained in my senses as my pedaling continued. My passive aggressive bell at times attracted a verbal “ding ding” from a walking humorist. I laughed, he laughed, and we laughed like I did with a group of girls that crossed my path with an absentminded friend whose involvement with her purse distracted her senses. They froufrouly screeched her as I approached and finally slowed down, maneuvering around her with my right foot sweeping the ground for control. She obviously did not quite get it and so we just laughed.
Others proudly professed that they do not use their breaks at all, running through red lights across wide intersections, sometimes waiting in the middle of the road as a car from the other direction passed by if needed. One-way streets don’t really apply to bikes, and upon observations, many cars as well, an acceptance by all that share the road I guess. The only law-breaking, and ticket deserving, action is the absence of front or backlight during a night ride. With this in check, a sort of freedom emerges gliding through the city enveloped by darkness, and even security. “What are they going to do, jump out and knock over your bike?” a rhetorical question voiced to illustrate the benefits of riding home during late evenings, or early mornings, to discourage city predators.
Finally the taxi van took a bite of courage, or push of impatience, to roll and bump passed the two girls in front of me who did not even waiver at its narrow proximity. We continued over bridges, which in the Netherlands accounts for a hill, everyone leaning forward just a little to prepare for the ascent with their one-speed bike, and passed the Rosengracht, the street that I should have taken. But that way, the right way, would not put me behind the flock of bikers waiting to cross Stadhouderskade near the Heineken Brewery or cycle around Weteringschans and passed Mellow Yellow, arguably the bested name coffee shop in the city. Energy surged biking on Queen’s Night knowing that everyone on the same bike path entertained thoughts of their evenings - their expected drinks, merriment, and street concerts – maybe even nodding at the wise words that their friend said earlier that evening.
“Don’t make the same mistake that I made.”