The occasional bicycle rack can be found near pedestrian promenades in Istanbul, such as the one pictured above on the Asian side of the city. But the city’s heavy traffic and reckless drivers discourage many would-be bicycle commuters. Developing a more bike-friendly Istanbul was the goal of BikeLab Istanbul, a workshop held in late December and sponsored by sustainable transport advocate EMBARQ TÜRKİYE, Dutch urban design company YARD 9, and the Dutch consulate in Istanbul.
Consulting the experts
In a city notorious for terrible commutes and congested traffic, encouraging more people to bicycle isn’t just good for the environment — it could relieve vehicle congestion and substantially improve everyone’s mood.
Because bicycling is rare on major streets in Istanbul, drivers are unused to seeing cyclists sharing the road with them, leading to dangerous driving maneuvers and even violent confrontations.
To discuss how best to ensure bicyclists’ safety and integrate bicycle infrastructure into the city, BikeLab brought representatives from the Istanbul municipal government, Turkish transportation stakeholders, and NGOs together with Dutch and Turkish experts in urban transit planning.
Leaders from two major cycling associations in Istanbul were in attendance, as were members from the Dutch Cycling Embassy. Turkey could learn much about urban bicycle infrastructure from the Netherlands, one of the world’s most bike-friendly countries.
How to build a bike culture from scratch?
BikeLab spawned more than mere discussion about the issue, however. The work begun at the workshop will continue through a series of events in 2013.
Bicycle lanes must be part of the solution. Designing and implementing those lanes will begin over the next year, as will a series of activities to encourage more Istanbul residents to ride bikes.
Not all cities in Turkey are as unfriendly toward bicyclists as Istanbul. In 2011, EMBARQ TÜRKİYE started developing pilot bicycling corridors in the Turkish cities of Antalya, Sakarya, and Eskişehir. But Istanbul, the country’s most populous and bustling metropolis by far, is where bike-friendly infrastructure is most urgently needed.
Read more about green bicycling news from the Middle East:
Image via Royston Rascals