Turkish cities to be given bicycle roads

Turkish cities to be given bicycle roads

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkish cities to be given bicycle roads

People hit the road with their bikes on “World cycling in suits day” in Istanbul. DHA photo

Some 64 bicycle road projects are in the pipeline across Turkey as part of the government’s push for “cleaner cities,” the environment minister has announced, amid growing criticism of the environmental impact of the government’s urbanization policies.

Minister of Environment and Urban Planning Erdoğan Bayraktar said the government was working on a “Bicycle Roads in 81 Provinces Project,” adding that around 64 bicycle road projects prepared by the local municipalities had already been approved by the authorities and were awaiting budget approval.

The government’s desire to expand bicycle road regulations across the country comes after chronic traffic problems hit Istanbul over the last few weeks.

In recent years, both central and local authorities in Turkey have stepped up attempts to make changes to the country’s transport priorities, which have generally emphasized private car usage since the 1950s. Public transport has been expanded nad bicycle usage aimed to be promoted with the aim of moving toward less congested traffic and healthier cities.

Bayraktar said the government had allocated 2 million Turkish Liras within the past year for bicycle road establishment in line with that aim, , adding that his ministry also provided technical assistance for these projects.

“Environmentalism stands out in the whole world due to global warming, the lessening of endemic life, as well as rising sea and shore pollution,” Bayraktar told Anadolu Agency yesterday, adding that these concerns would play a major part in Turkey’s wide-scale urban transformation process.

Mainly led by the state housing agency TOKİ, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) government, has embarked on an ambitious and controversial urban transformation program that aims at the renewal of cities’ unhealthily urbanized areas.

With this stated intention, the government has been refashioning many areas, particularly in the center of metropolises.

However, its urbanization choices have proved very controversial, and were even led the spark that lit the Gezi Park protests at the end of May, as well as the demonstrations against a road that was planned to pass through the Middle East Technical University’s (ODTÜ) leafy lands in Ankara.

In yesterday’s remarks, Bayraktar clearly sought to draw a greener picture for government policies, by putting forward the main objectives of urban transformation as realizing “a cleaner environment, a cleaner society, cleaner air and cleaner water.”

In order to achieve these goals, the municipalities that present eco-friendly projects are now awarded with funds and incentives, he said, recalling that this year the environment ministry had distributed 159 garbage collector vehicles, worth more than 26.5 million liras.

Bayraktar also vowed to send another 189 cleaning vehicles with different purposes to local governments as part of incentives.