As you’ll quickly discover, I have a fondness for Turkey. This fondness is not a blind love, but a great admiration of a deeply flawed country.
Anecdotally, I find it absolutely hilarious that there are bicycle initiatives in Turkey. This is a country where pedestrians are routinely hit by cars… while walking down the sidewalk. I’m not kidding, I’ve met a woman who has been hit three different times, yes, while on the sidewalk. This is a country for which the US Department of State has warned Americans of the following (emphasis is my own):
Drivers who experience car troubles or accidents pull to the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers, but many drivers place a large rock or a pile of rocks on the road about 10-15 meters behind their vehicles instead of turning on emergency lights. –US Dept of State
As a transpo enthousiast, I think it would be a brilliant coup if the powers that be were able to stave off private car ownership for Turkey’s increasingly affluent middle class. The street network in many of the ancient cities and towns are particularly accommodating for pedestrians and cyclists.
Erdogan’s government has shown little interest in small-scale street projects, favoring headline grabbing megaprojects like the (hopefully now abandoned) canal project or the underground tunneling of the Bosporus. They’ve been opting to tear down historic districts in favor of Dubai-style shopping malls.
All I know is, of all the countries I have visited, nowhere do I believe bicycling less likely to take off than in Turkey. It is currently regarded as fringe at best, or a poor man’s only option at worst. I’m curious to see how the marketing teams from Embarq are able to sell cycling to the masses in cities like Adapazarı.
I suppose that this is what we’re talking about though, in the classroom. It’s fun to assume that others will share enthusiasm for what is clearly (amiright) a great and sustainable mode of transportation. What happens on the ground is another thing entirely. Looking at the incredible change of opinion on both driving and cycling in many US cities of late can give us hope. And, if any country has proven its ambition and dedication to increasing accessibility across the nation, it is Turkey.
The question is, who can convince the powers that be that cycling is a legitimate use of time and resources? And, better yet, who can convince the Turkish populace that bikes are cool?