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Turkish province mounts up for new bike routes

Istanbul - Hurriyet Daily News | 7/18/2010 12:00:00 AM | ERİSA DAUTAJ ŞENERDEM

With plans to construct routes and parking spaces for bikes, the northern Black Sea province of Sakarya is well on its way to becoming more bicycle-friendly.

With plans to construct routes and parking spaces for bikes, the northern Black Sea province of Sakarya is well on its way to becoming more bicycle-friendly.

Fatih Turan, the head of the municipality’s Transportation Unit, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview Saturday that earlier this year the Sakarya Metropolitan Municipality launched an initiative to make the city more bike-friendly for a healthier community and environment.

The idea first came from Turan, who suggested making greater efforts to encourage cycling as the city’s main form of transportation so that Sakarya would resemble European cities, especially those in more developed countries.

According to foreign experts, the infrastructure of the city resembles that of Sweden’s Malmö, where it has been noted that residents use bicycles extensively.

“Cycling used to be customary for people who worked in factories in Sakarya’s surroundings, and now it has become widespread inside the city as well,” Turan said, adding that the municipality wanted to encourage the use of bicycles not only for sports and other creative activities, but to make them a major means of transportation for short-distances within the city.  

“I went to school by bike every day when I was in the U.K.,” said Turan, who did five years of doctoral studies in Europe. He said this helped him better understand how bike routes are used and what infrastructure requirements must be satisfied.

Turan said the Sustainable Transportation Center, or EMBARQ, which is a non-profit research and implementation institute established in the United States with a branch in Turkey, suggested several ideas for making transportation as environmentally friendly as possible.

The municipality then invited experts from the Dutch nongovernmental organization “Interface for Cycling” to develop a study on the possibilities of constructing bike routes in the city.

The results of the study showed that there was a high demand for bike use from local residents. In a questionnaire, 640 inhabitants were asked face-to-face about their needs, and whether the city had a suitable topography for the infrastructure. The questionnaire also asked whether construction of bicycle infrastructure should start as soon as possible.

Local Turkish experts were also sent to visit some European cities for a week to study how bikes are used as major forms of transportation in other countries.

 “The main aim of this project is to encourage Sakarya inhabitants to use bikes more as a means of transportation, which will relieve the crowded traffic in the city,” Yekta Şirin, the municipality’s press representative, told the Daily News in an interview last week, adding that cycling would also positively affect people’s health and the environment.

Initially, three main bike routes of lengths of three to five kilometers will run from Sakarya’s outskirts the city center. “Once we finish the first route by the end of August, we will also provide parking spaces in the center of Sakarya for bikers to be able to park there,” Şirin said, adding that the places for parking had already been identified. He also said that after this first stage, the municipality intended to invest more in bike routes in the long run.

Turan told the Daily News that the municipality would organize awareness campaigns, starting from August, to encourage people to use bicycles more. He also said they would cooperate with schools throughout the city and deliver cycling classes to students where necessary.

“We intend to develop other projects to encourage the use of bikes in the city,” Turan said, explaining that the municipality planned to develop a transportation card with an electronic chip that would register users’ personal data and keep track of their accounts for benefits such as a free bus ride after having parked their bikes.

A similar system has already been established in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri, according to a Doğan News Agency report last week. KAYBİS, an integrated bicycle-rail transportation system, was introduced last week by Kayseri Mayor Mehmet Özhakesi.

“Reaching the station where they want to get onto the rail system, people will be able to use bicycles thanks to these KAYBİS cards,” Özhakesi said, adding that this system functions only in a few leading cities in the world and that the service was a first for Turkey. He said the KAYBİS card is scanned by a magnetic reader, which then releases a bicycle from the KAYBİS mechanism. Users then deposit the bicycles at spots determined by the municipality.

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