Talking about daily Turkish life, streets play a vital role in the traditional setting: Children plays games on the streets; elderly people sit on the sidewalks and spend time talking to each other; women enjoy the most juicy gossip while knitting or cracking sunflower seeds between their teeth, etc. This picture might be portrayed in any Mediterranean country that has a similar lifestyle as in Turkey.
Although you can still see the same urban setting in some rural areas, Istanbul’s main urban cores are losing this unique identity. Streets are becoming some kind of undefined areas for pedestrians to pass over without any interaction, rather than being the semi-public spaces and vital arteries for people to communicate. It is not only because of the increasing value of land and lack of urban planning in Istanbul, but also bad conditions of street pavements. An example is the most well-known street of Turkey, Istiklal Street in Taksim, Istanbul. Surrounded with several art galleries, shops, cinemas, cafes, this 0.8 mile-long street kept its popularity for decades. Approximately 3-million people visit Istiklal Street in a single day, however the pavements on the street are failing to comfort the citizens due to frequent maintenance. It is still a mystery for Turkish people themselves why such a popular street has broken pavement and stones that might cause dangerous buckling or falling. Some responsive Istanbulities have started an initiative under the name Bad Turkish Streets. You can upload a picture of a dirty street or a broken sidewalk, and indicate the responsible authority under the picture. On the right hand side of the webpage, one can find the contact numbers of the authorities to contact as well. These kind of instant social media innovations are brilliant ways to force politicians to do their jobs well.
So, where can you go to have a smooth jog in Istanbul, without being obstructed? On the European side, the coast line from Kuruçeşme till Sarıyer, along the Bosphorus, provides a great opportunity to enjoy a late afternoon jog. Like an epic hero of a video game, one should be cautious of the fishermen’s fishhooks, sunbathing swimmers, and bikers along the way. The second longest section is along the Golden Horn; from Haliç Congress Center until the beautiful 18th century Sadabad Mosque in Kağıthane, Istanbul. If you want to have a late night walk, or bike training, Caddebostan Coast is the best option on Asian side. This 5-mile long coast is the best option for a calm evening, while enjoying the Princess Islands towards the Marmara Sea on the south, and a greened-zone on the northern side.
What would your suggestion be for universally designed streets in Istanbul?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.