Bicycle Riding in Istanbul
For the past decade, bicycles have been more than just a pastime for the people of Istanbul, particularly for the young white-collar population who do not require a formal dress code in their workplaces. Bicycles provide these individuals with benefits, such as; maintaining their bodies in shape, as well as sustained healthy living, and avoiding Istanbul traffic during rush hours. Bicycle riding in Istanbul has been a culture for the working class for quite a while now.
Related Article: Important Things You Need to Know Before Living in Turkey.
City of Hills: Istanbul
Bicycles are more often seen in flat cities such as; Amsterdam, as we all know. Because even one of the most ancient epithets of this old lady is; “city of seven hills,” bicycle riding in Istanbul is not the most common practice for transportation. On the other hand, bicycles began to be seen far more common as healthy living practices began to take more place in ordinary people’s daily life.
Nevertheless, bicycles have always been legally recognized by Turkey’s traffic regulations, and a bicycle rider in Istanbul has every right to travel in the urban streets. Therefore, the driver behind you should respect you as you slow down riding up the hill, but it is an unfortunate fact that this respect may not always be seen by the drivers.
This acclivitous state of the city also compels the bicycle riders in Istanbul to ride only in dry weather. It is a very risk-increasing act to ride up a slope on wet asphalt and breaks may not hold riding down one.
Mentioning the recognition of bicycles by the state as a transportation vehicle, just keep in mind that highways are an exception to this rule. Actually, the reasons are very simple for this; highways are toll roads that charge the vehicles automatically which cannot be practiced on bicycles. The second reason is that there are minimum speed limits, and it is unlikely to be able to ride your bicycle at 60 km per hour. Even if the biker somehow can, natural wind and wind to be caused by the cars passing by would dramatically put the bicycle rider’s wellbeing to risk.
Bicycles and Public Transport in Istanbul
This increase in the number of bicycle riders in Istanbul, the state of being an acclivitous city, and the preference of riders to take their bicycles to far ends of the city pushed Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to adapt the public transport vehicles and regulations to allow people to use the public transport vehicles, within some limits for some.
For instance, bicycle riders in Istanbul can use the underground metro network all day long except the rush hours, which have been determined as 07:00-09:00 in the morning and 17:00-20:00 in the evenings. On the other hand, riders with portable bicycles do not have this limitation, they are allowed to use the metro underground with no limitations. Bikers are also allowed to use the lifts in the metro stations.
The majority of municipal buses have a piece of specific equipment in front of them that can hold bicycles and be used by cyclists all day. Buses without this device can be utilized between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00, and 22:00 and 06:00, again to prevent congestion during peak hours. Portable bicycles are once again permitted on buses at all times of the day and night.
Ferries can be used with bicycles all day long and with no limitations. Bicycles are allowed in all of these public transport vehicles free of extra charge. Only private ferries traveling to the Prince Islands from the mainland treat bicycles as individuals and asks for the same charge.
Bicycle Roads of Istanbul
Istanbul has bicycle roads on both continents, Europe and Asia, which makes this hobby and transportation tool far more appealing. Especially Anatolian side connects many districts with bicycle roads, going all the way through Kadıkoy to Kartal on the coast.
Related Article: The Main Living Centers of Istanbul: Kadikoy.
This destination also connects bicycles to ferries and the underground metro in Kadikoy and again connects ferries in Bostanci. Both of these locations also enable the riders to travel to the European side of Istanbul; to Eminonu, Karakoy, Kabatas, and Besiktas Ferry piers. A short ride from Eminonu pier to Halic metro station will make the rider be able to use the underground metro network of the European side of Istanbul as well.
Bicycles have a very important place in daily life in Prince Islands, the four major islands located in the Marmara Sea with an urban settlement, and are also a district of Istanbul on their own which are governed by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Any cars or motorcycles are strictly banned in inland transportation, except for the service vehicles of the municipality such as; garbage trucks, fire department’s and polices’ vehicles.
The habitants prefer to use normal bicycles for their pleasure, and electrical bicycles and other electric vehicles for their daily needs and transportation. Phaetons were used to be a traditional transportation method as well, as well as a very popular practice for touristic sightseeing tours, but this practice has ended in 2020 due to the demand of animal lovers in Istanbul.
Today, electrical buggies are used in Prince Islands for public transportation, and taxies, and are very much appreciated by the public. This exceptional state of Prince Islands has turned them into bicycle roads by nature and riding a very popular act. You can enjoy the Prince Islands with your own bicycle or bicycle renting shops which are very common in all four Islands.
Also, tens of kilometers of bicycle roads are taking place in the urban planning of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The fact is that bicycles have a major effect on easing traffic jams and decreasing the carbon footprint of the people of the city, bicycles are encouraged by the municipality. That is why an establishment and an app have been developed under the municipality’s body; ISBIKE.
Any person can download the app to their smartphone, create their account, load units with their credit card, and lease a bicycle that has been spread to the stations located on the bicycle roads and leave it at the station they wish. The app shows the stations on the map, the nearest station to you, and how many bicycles are currently located in that station, which works with 100% accuracy. Today, the number of ISBIKE stations is 140 and there are approximately 1.500 bicycles registered to the system.
The only disadvantage of the system is that you cannot always find a proper and comfortable bicycle. Vehicles are very heavy and are designed for basic transportation, which makes them used by many different riders with a variety of skill sets. Nevertheless, the app also contains a complaint mechanism for those who rent a bicycle from ISBIKE and have a poor experience. The malfunctioning bicycle is to be taken by the officials and credits are to be returned to the rider.
Looking at the foreseeable future, bicycles are most likely to have a far more place in the daily life of Istanbul, so step onto your pedal and join the bikers of Istanbul. Just pick up your bicycle, and get on the bicycle roads, so that you can enjoy bicycle riding in Istanbul.