31 January 2010
The Nocturnal Social Life of Urban Bicycles
Friday night in the big[gish] city. Most of the traffic is gone from the streets. Only 40% of Copenhageners own cars so most of the motor vehicles have exited stage left in the evenings, back to the urban sprawl.
It's at night, especially on the weekends, that the bicycle reigns supreme as friends, lovers and hopers move about from café or restaurant to bar or nightclub. Or all four.
It's at night, especially on the weekends, that the bicycle achieves the pinnacle of it's sociability. People chat and laugh, discuss or argue, all whilst cycling from A to B. Red lights are brilliant. They offer a pause in the rolling conversation. A chance to look each other in the eye and make important or humourous points.
The nocturnal social life of urban bicycles is taken for granted, even in Copenhagen, what with all the emphasis on transport, getting to and from work, picking up and dropping off kids. It's a quiet time in that the squeaky parts of old bicycles are amplified through the empty streets and an exuberant time at the weekends when everyones hope and goal is a good night out.
Our bicycles roll us across the lamplit asphalt of the bicycle lanes. Across city squares and down deserted side streets. The city is ours. The tens of thousands of us who pedal about on a weekend night own the city. More than we ever can during the day.
While our hope and goal is a good night out, we all accept that it may not end that way. I was cycling home not long ago, well after midnight and closer to dawn when I saw a bike lying half on the bike lane. Then I saw a figure leaning in the bushes - on the left of the photo.
I thought the person had fallen, even though the odds are greatly against it - but when I approached I saw the girl on her mobile, quite drunk. She was muttering the same two words into the phone: "Fuck dig... fuck dig... fuck dig..." Which means Fuck you, in Danish.
So, no fall. Just a phone call and she hopped off her bike, letting it collapse on the ground as she spoke to someone with whom she wasn't pleased.
Love. Urban nights. Bicycles.