A pedestrian Historic District in Istanbul: Are we better off?
The pedestrianization of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula, which began in 2011, has resulted in the conversion of over 250 streets from car-dominated roads to people-oriented spaces. EMBARQ Turkey played a key role in conceptualizing and catalyzing the pedestrianization project, and is now furthering its contribution by conducting a survey assessment and analysis of the project’s success.
This is the third and most comprehensive assessment report led by EMBARQ Turkey examining public spaces and the impacts of pedestrianization in Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula – a United Nations World Heritage Site internationally revered for its outstanding value. The assessment differs from the previous reports in that it is the first to use surveys to compile public opinions and perceptions of the pedestrianization project from three key user groups: local businesses, Istanbul residents, and students.
By collecting this vital information directly from community members, EMBARQ Turkey assesses the on the ground impact of pedestrianization, which will be made available to municipalities planning to pedestrianize their own streets in other parts of Istanbul and across Turkey.
New survey will provide comprehensive assessment of public opinions and perceptions
The new EMBARQ Turkey survey goes beyond two previous assessment reports in an effort to understand the satisfaction levels of three user groups: local businesses, Istanbul residents, and students. Designed and implemented by the EMBARQ Turkey team, this survey assessment – which was conducted in October – entailed three separate questionnaires targeted to each user group.
The surveys of students and other Istanbul residents were conducted online, and covered questions on demographics, travel patterns, and perceptions on changes in the physical environment resulting from pedestrianization. The surveys for local business owners were conducted in person by ten surveyors who were in the field over a period of four days. For these surveys, the Historic Peninsula was divided into four geographic clusters – each of which comprises a sample unit.
Now that the survey conduction is complete, the EMBARQ Turkey team will analyze the results and present their findings in a report that will be published in December. The report will be complemented by a series of workshops bringing together various stakeholders for discussions on creating livable spaces and streets in Istanbul.
Previous assessments of pedestrianization in Istanbul
The first report on public spaces and public life in Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula was spearheaded by Gehl Architects, an urban research and design consultancy that focuses on the relationship between the built environment and people’s quality of life, at the invitation of EMBARQ Turkey. The report included mapping of the major opportunities and challenges faced by the Historic Peninsula, and a limited survey of public life in selected areas. It was useful for examining the Historic Peninsula as a whole, specifically with regards to recommendations for improvement.
The second report took a more focused approach on assessing the completed pedestrianization project in the Historic Peninsula. It situated Istanbul’s project within the context of pedestrianization projects worldwide, which have shown that transforming car-oriented streets into pedestrianized environments has many potential benefits. These include but are not limited to: supporting physical activity, social interaction, economic activity, and improved air quality. However, these benefits can only be achieved with the successful implementation of complementary measures. Supporting infrastructure (i.e. improved streetscapes, sufficient public transportation options, availability of car parks) and stakeholder buy-in are vital for ensuring the success of pedestrianization projects. In this line, the second report aimed to provide more details on Istanbul’s completed project while featuring the perceptions of local businesses in the Historic Peninsula.
Key partners behind Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula’s pedestrianization
The design phase of the pedestrianization project in Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula began in 2010 as a partnership between EMBARQ Turkey, Gehl Architects, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and Fatih Municipality. The project was conceived in response to rapid and initially uncontrolled urban growth that sparked concerns about preserving the rich cultural and historical heritage of Istanbul’s 8,000 year-old Historic Peninsula. Istanbul’s Metropolitan Municipality and Fatih Municipality began pedestrianizing streets in 2011, and converted over 250 streets to car-free zones by 2012.
Understanding impact of pedestrianization through views of the public
The goal of EMBARQ Turkey’s third assessment of pedestrianization in Istanbul is to gain a deeper understanding of the potential improvements made possible through pedestrianization. In this case, understanding will be backed up by real on the ground impacts – this is the first opportunity Istanbul’s urban residents have been given to voice their opinions and satisfaction levels with the project. While these findings will be invaluable for other municipalities planning pedestrianization projects, they will also play an important role in encouraging greater awareness on the part of Istanbul’s urban residents of the impacts that urban accessibility and development projects can have on their daily lives.
For more information about this project, please contact EMBARQ Turkey at firstname.lastname@example.org.