Using bicycles instead of buses or cars to get around the mad metropolis that is Istanbul seems like a wonderful idea for many reasons. If you have ever lived in or visited the city, you will know about the traffic jams that can turn a half-hour journey into a three-hour ordeal. But the lack of an appropriate cycling infrastructure and an unshakeable devotion to car culture have left urban cycling far from the forefront of the city’s transport options.
Set to change all this is the newly formed Cyclists’ Transport Platform (Bisikletli Ulaşım Platformu), an amalgamation of previous initiatives such as the Bisiklet Yoluna Sahip Çık (an advocate group for the rights of cyclists), Bisiklet Dostu Isletmeler (a project to give special offers to cyclists in places like cafés and restaurants), and the Bisikletli Eylem Grubu (Cycling Movement/Action Group).
Formed by volunteers (all of them cyclists), the Platform is totally independent and was founded to promote awareness, to disseminate information regarding the environmental and health benefits of cycling, and to campaign for bicycles to be allowed on the metrobus roads. ‘The Platform wishes to make transport-oriented cycling in Istanbul and in Turkey attainable,' says one of the Platform’s founders, Engin Ertekin. 'Transport-oriented cycling involves travelling short and medium distances in the urban environment and our Platform believes this is possible in Istanbul with the support of all parties, such as local authorities, municipalities, drivers and pedestrians,’
To achieve its mission, the Platform aims to attract attention, via meetings and protests, of groups such as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB). ‘The IBB has made promises in recent years of bike lanes on the main streets of Istanbul, like Bağdat Caddesi on the Anatolian side. The Municipality even constructed bike lanes from Göztepe to the Kadıköy metrobus line, but then they cancelled the project within 24 hours. There is one bike lane near Bakırköy on the European side, constructed a couple years ago. But unfortunately there are no control mechanisms in place for this lane, and safe riding is not possible due to the presence of car parks,’ says Ertekin.
Integrating cycling into the transport system is a good idea for a plethora of reasons – money, time, the environment and health are the big four. ‘The demand for oil will decrease, noise pollution will reduce, there will be less harmful emissions and less need for parking lots and spaces – which have enormous environmental and financial impacts,’ says Ertekin. ‘Less cars, more bikes means safety,’ is the Platform’s slogan.
The Platform are using social media (until Facebook and YouTube are potentially blocked by the government) to communicate their activities. They have developed a website giving route maps and useful information for cyclists, and organised cycling events around the main streets of Istanbul. They have also conducted various studies for the Renewable Energy Project, as well as benchmark studies of the infrastructure of bike lanes in European countries where cycling is an integral part of the transport system. A regular event on the Platform’s calendar is a bike ride through a busy part of Istanbul on the third Sunday of each month. The next ride is on March 16, from Göztepe 60.Yıl Park to Caddebostan. Click here for more details.
Photo courtesy of Bisikletli Ulaşım Platformu’s Facebook page