New study reveals 80% satisfaction rate for the pedestrianization of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula
Editor's note: Read more about former New York City Mayor and current United Nations Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg's visit to Istanbul's Historic Peninsula, where took a walking tour with Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, EMBARQ Turkey Board Chair and Director A. Canan Ediboğlu and Arzu Tekir, and EMBARQ Director Holger Dalkmann.
Since 2010, EMBARQ Turkey, has partnered with Gehl Architects and Istanbul's Fatih Municipality to pedestrianize 295 streets in Istanbul's Historic Peninsula. Pedestrianization – the process of closing streets to vehicle traffic, either permanently or during certain hours – not only improves safety and accessibility for pedestrians, but also brings larger social, environmental, and economic benefits for cities.
From the beginning, the goal of pedestrianization in Istanbul has been to reveal the potential for sustainable transport and urban design to improve quality of life and create a more accessible city. EMBARQ Turkey’s new “Current State Assessment” analyzes responses to a survey of 495 Istanbul residents; 95 students from the Beyazit Campus of Istanbul University, located on the Historic Peninsula; and 740 local business owners and employees to capture how pedestrianization has impacted the roughly 2.5 million daily users of these streets.
Safe, attractive, and accessible spaces for community interaction are a vital component of sustainable, livable cities. Too often, city leaders sacrifice public space and walkable neighborhoods in the name of urban growth and expansion.
Pedestrianization holds particular benefits for city centers, drumming up commercial activity and catalyzing investment. Pedestrianization improves public health by providing opportunities for physical activity through active transport, curbs local air pollution, and improves traffic safety. It decreases the number of cars on the road, helping to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate global climate change. Finally, pedestrianization supports local businesses and fosters economic growth through tourism and cultural exchange, building thriving and prosperous urban communities.
These changes combine to create cities that are livable and sustainable, improving quality of life for urban residents.
80% express satisfaction with outcomes to date
Across the three groups surveyed, 80% indicated that they are satisfied overall with the changes that have come with pedestrianization, unusual for projects affecting such a large and diverse population.
The key areas of interest covered in the survey speak to the varied dimensions necessary to create sustainable and livable cities, and how pedestrianization advances these goals.
Providing different transport modes caters to communities with different mobility needs, making cities more equitable and accessible. The survey aimed to examine this accessibility in the Historic Peninsula by assessing which of Istanbul’s transport systems are most used by stakeholders. The majority of respondents (41%) reported that they travel by rail, followed by ferry (30%), and bus (13%). Only 4% travel by personal car on a routine basis. This reinforces pedestrianization as a strategy to curb car ownership, helping to combat Istanbul’s crippling congestion while reducing traffic crashes.
Safety and livability
While pedestrian safety and walkability are unsurprisingly significant benefits of Istanbul’s pedestrianization, those surveyed also reported improvements in urban design and aesthetics, historical preservation, and air quality. The impact of such benefits is expected to grow over time as more streets are pedestrianized and use of the new public spaces expands.
Traffic safety, too, is an area that has seen significant progress, but still with challenges ahead. While crashes involving pedestrians have dropped significantly, restrictions on traffic within the Historic Peninsula means most motor vehicles stick to the main roads at the edge of the pedestrianized zone. This is where the majority of crashes involving pedestrians now occur, and represents the next challenge for making Istanbul’s streets safer for all road users.
Continued vitality for the Historic Peninsula
The pedestrianizaiton of Istnabul’s Historic Peninsula is a massive project, including in its conceptual scope, the geographic area it covers, and the population affected. With all of the change the project has already created, it is sometimes hard to remember we are only three years in, and that there are still improvements to be made.
EMBARQ Turkey’s “Current State Assessment” both identifies these challenges and lays out a roadmap for how to confront them. Pedestrianization can only be successful with 100% buy-in from all stakeholders. Central to this goal redefining the concept of “street” with that of “space.” Urban design must go beyond the needs of vehicles and buildings to focus on the needs of people. Designing safer, more accessible streets that unite communities – not divide them – is key for sustainable urbanization and improves quality of life for urban residents in Istanbul and cities around the world.
Read more about pedestrianiation and its impact on Istanbul in EMBARQ Turkey’s “Current State Assessment” report.