Bicycle activist hopes for a better Turkey for women cyclists
Emrah Güler - ANKARATurkey’s first regulations on bicycle lanes and parking spots made the news last week. This raised more than a few eyebrows in a country where it’s not uncommon to see parked cars on pavements leaving no room for pedestrians, or aggressive car traffic making its own rules. The new regulations require an increased number of bicycle lanes and parking spots, connection of these lanes to mass transportation hubs, and even an ambitious call for the construction of roads and modification of buses to accommodate bicycle lanes.
Pınar Pinzuti is an avid cyclist, bicycle activist, and one of the organizers of the recent Chic Women’s Bicycle Tour, a “women’s activity organized by women for women” that took women cyclists to the streets in 10 cities in Turkey in late September. Having lived in Europe for a decade, studying Social Pedagogy in Germany and later working in Italy, cycling became Pinzuti’s preferred means of transportation.
All was not well when she returned to her hometown, İzmir in Turkey. “When I came back to Turkey, I saw that there was no respect for cyclists, that the municipality was doing next to nothing for pedestrians and cyclists. There were no proper pavements, yet alone bicycle lanes,” Pinzuti told the Hürriyet Daily News. That’s when she started a blog on cycling, transportation with bicycles, and the cycling lifestyle. “I began coming together with bicycle activists through social media, and joining meetings organized by the municipality to relay our demands as cyclists.”
How does a bicycle activist become an agent of change for cyclists? Or more specifically, what does Pinzuti do for cyclists across Turkey? “I write to columnists to write about bicycle transportation in their columns, I tweet to bureaucrats responsible from transportation, I follow the recent projects of architects and city planners, write critically about their projects if they have omitted bicycles in their projects, I join demonstrations on bicycle transportation and safety, I attend events on sustainable transportation and cities, I try to raise awareness on the deaths of cyclists.” That’s what activism and advocacy sound like.
Women cycling across Turkey
Pinzuti is a blogger and an active user of social media, well aware that they are among the best tools to reach people and raise awareness. In her blog “Bisikletim” (My Bicycle), she shares her travels as a cyclist in Turkey and abroad, writing about what needs to be done for increased and safer bicycle transportation. While she was researching for her blog on sustainable living, Pinzuti heard about Velo-city, the annual cycle planning conference, held since 1980, which inspired the founding of the European Cyclists’ Federation in 1983.
“I really wanted to go to Velo-City, one of the world’s primary forums, where visionary mayors and bicycle activists from around the world come together to exchange bicycling expertise,” said Pinzuti. She found out that not a single person from Turkey’s municipalities was attending the conference, which was soon receiving support from the group “Sivil Düşün” (Think Civil), the EU program supporting civil society organizations, and individual activists.
Pinzuti joined 1,400 participants in Vienna in 2013 to attend Velo-City. That year’s forum had the motto “The Sound of Cycling – Urban Cycling Cultures” and had three main themes: Cycling culture, cycling cities, and cycling benefits. She is also one of the organizers of the Chic Women’s Bicycle Tour, held for the third time this year. “The tour came to life thanks to organizer Sema Gür, who hoped to challenge the male-dominated world of cycling in Turkey,” said Pinzuti.
Gür had asked a group of cyclist friends, all women, to come together one Sunday morning in İzmir, coinciding with the annual Car Free Cities Day, an initiative organized as part of the EU’s “Mobility Week” activities. She asked them to dress up and decorate their bikes. More than 200 women joined, and the next year many more women joined the activity in more cities, turning it into a high-profile annual event. Pinzuti attributes the success of the event to being “sincere, voluntary and independent,” and she hopes to encourage more women to start cycling and more men to respect women cyclists. Here’s hoping that she is successful in her efforts to bring further change to women cyclists across Turkey.