The Pedestrianization of Istanbul's Historic Peninsula

Perspectives from Local Businesses

Istanbul's Historic Peninsula, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been compromised by rapid and uncontrolled urban growth. In order to restore public space and revitalize the city center, Istanbul pedestrianized over 250 streets between 2010 and 2012. Involved in the project throughout, EMBARQ Turkey has compiled this report the impacts of the pedestrianization on local businesses and stakeholders.



Istanbul's world heritage-listed Historic Peninsula is internationally recognized for its outstanding universal value. Unfortunately, its rich heritage has been strangled by rapid and initially uncontrolled urban growth. Concerns over the preservation of the rich cultural and historical heritage have increased during the past decade. In response to raising concerns, local administrations have initiated numerous projects in an effort to protect the city’s 8,000 year old Historic Peninsula. As part of these efforts, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Fatih Municipality pedestrianized more than 250 streets between 2010 and 2012.

EMBARQ Turkey is dedicated to working with local administration and stakeholders for developing solutions for protecting the area. In this line, EMBARQ Türkiye invited GEHL Architects to conduct a public space and public life survey in the area. The project report included mapping of the major potentials and challenges that the Historic Peninsula experiences in its present state and a survey of the public life taking place in selected areas. EMBARQ Turkey's first report studied the Historic Peninsula as a whole, drew attention to current and potential problems and offered recommendations for improvement.

In this second report, a more focused approach had been taken with the aim of assessing completed pedestrianization projects in the Historic Peninsula. Pedestrianization projects from all over the world have shown that transforming car-oriented streets into pedestrianized environments has many potential benefits: supporting physical activity, social interaction, economic activity, and improved air quality. However, these benefits can only be achieved through successful implementation of complementary measures. Supporting infrastructure (e.g. 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 present study aimed to provide more details on completed projects and shed light on the local community's perceptions of benefits. Section 2 begins with some background to the Historic Peninsula and presents details of pedestrian transformation projects that were successfully implemented since 2010. It also highlights planned and ongoing public transportation projects for the peninsula, which will significantly alter current conditions. Section 3 provides some theoretical background to assess economics and air quality benefits of pedestrianization projects. This background was valuable in refining the questions for the perception survey. Finally, section 4 presents the results from the perception survey conducted with business owners and employees on the pedestrianized streets.

We believe these findings will be valuable for (i) promoting and drawing investments for future pedestrianization projects as it shows that stakeholder are mostly happy with the results, and (ii) encouraging local administrations to improve ongoing and future pedestrianization projects as the results highlight priority areas for improvement.

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