İstanbul's bicycle map

Selva Gürdoğan (second from right) and Gregers Tang Thomsen (far right) provide information for those interested in their map at 0212 252 74 24

March 16, 2011, Wednesday/ 15:54:00

Architect Selva Gürdoğan and her Danish husband, Gregers Tang Thomsen, have put their heads together to turn out a bicycle map of İstanbul. And for anybody who doesn't like to be stuck in traffic or who wants to avoid the crowds of public transportation, getting a copy of this map may be a great idea.

The map shows which roads to use while on a bicycle in areas of the city such as Beyazıt, Eyüp, Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş and Şişli.

Actually, creating a bicycle map of İstanbul was the joint project of all the employees at Superpool, Selva Gürdoğan and Gregers Tang Thomsen's architectural firm. Superpool employees Mustafa Bulgur, Marta Marszal and Matthias Poen biked all over the city looking for roads that they could mark as appropriate for other bicycle users. In the end, they were able to clarify which routes in İstanbul, a city of seven hills, were good for bicycle riders to use. For someone who lives in Şişli but works in Mecidiyeköy, they were able to show just how to get to work while avoiding negatives such as traffic and crowds and even take in the best views at the same time.

Gürdoğan noted that in the first stages of the project, she and her colleagues decided to examine most closely the districts of the city heavily populated by students. Gürdoğan notes that up until now, city authorities have presumed that İstanbul was simply not a city where bicycles could really be ridden successfully as a serious mode of transportation due to the city's uneven terrain. So, there have never really been any serious projects aimed at promoting the use of bicycles as a way of getting, for example, from home to work or to school. Gürdoğan says that one of the aims of this map is to dispel this mistaken view.

In fact, the biggest hindrance to bicycle use in İstanbul is not the city's physical makeup, but its traffic. There are no bicycle lanes on the roads, and since many people park their cars on the sidewalk, bicycle riders as well as pedestrians have a hard time with the lack of no space. Gürdoğan says, "For bicyclists, it's not the hills or the pitch of the roads; if anything, it's the traffic.” The bicycle map prepared by the Superpool architectural office is going to be presented to the İstanbul Municipality as well as to bicycle sales and repair shops.

Am I in the wrong if I'm riding a bike?

Gregers Tang Thomsen believes that, as an architect, he has a special responsibility towards the city he lives in. In the past, he was involved in making a map of dolmuş routes. This map showed not only the roads taken by dolmuşes, but also points where people could get on, making it very easy for foreigners living in the city.

Gizem Altın, spokesperson for Pedal Sesi Bisiklet Hareketi (Sound of Pedals Bicycle Movement), a group that brings bicycle lovers together, says that her group is excited about this new map, though they also have a few worries. In İstanbul, bicycle riders cannot get onto public transportation. Altın wishes that İstanbul would see to it that there were bicycle racks on the front or back of city buses, as is available on buses in many European cities. Gürdoğan notes that one main reason for this new bicycle map is so people will get to know and love the city's many streets and roads. In the past, streets were living areas in Turkish culture, she points out. On many more streets, you could find tables and chairs that had been put out, where you could drink tea and engage in conversation. But street life moved to the parks and gradually faded away. Nowadays, those streets are empty.

Notes Gürdoğan: "What this shows us is that we are not a society that gathers in public spaces. The bicycle is a way of gaining back the city from the monopoly cars currently have on it.”

Traffic rules for bicycles

This new bicycle map not only shows roads appropriate for bicycle use in İstanbul; it also includes information about traffic rules for bike riders as well as repair shops and sports clubs.