I have so many good things to say about Turkish people and Turkish culture. I also think, on the whole, for a city its size with its recent population explosion, Istanbul is incredibly well-run: the public transportation is wonderful and runs mostly on time despite the traffic, garbage is collected regularly, the streets are pretty safe, and public parks are well-maintained.
I am now convinced that the Turks are a people who fundamentally don’t understand the concept of a sidewalk.
Here’s an example from a street near my house.
See the lady walking in the street? Can you blame her? Of course, cars drive down this street too, and fairly frequently, which is annoying during the day, somewhat nerve wracking at night.
Grading isn’t really big here, seems like, (all those dips become massive puddles, small lakes really, in the rain)
and it would make me apoplectic if I had a small child in a stroller to wheel around because no one seems to think anything of throwing up as many obstacles as possible on ever corner.
There’s an interview with Aylin Çiftçi, the head of the Istanbl Metropolitan Municipality Directorate of Handicapped People in this month’s Time Out Istanbul. She talks a lot about how other cities have handicapped lifts up steeper hills, how the buses aren’t wheel chair friendly, and she says a bunch about promblems with employment. My thought while reading it was, “WHAT ABOUT THE DAMNED SIDEWALKS?!” Look at this- this doesn’t even have a ramp in the curb for someone with a wheelchair (or a stroller, or whatever) to get up onto it. And then there are sidewalks like these, which don’t ever even officially start, they just sort of trickle into existence.
These are all examples from smaller, out of the way streets. The sidewalk in front of my work, (on a very busy street) is pretty sane. It’s broad and level and has no broken paving stones.
BUT, the powers that be decided to put a major bus stop at the end of it, which means that dozens of people are waiting for one of ten or so buses at any given time, in a quarter of a block area, in less than a 2 meter span on busy sidewalk. If you happen to be trying to work your way through the crowd to, say, get to work, it’s very likely that whoever’s walking right in front of you will just stop, suddenly, and start waiting for his bus, and you will be surrounded by people and have to shove your way out.
Behind work is a warren of lovely paved roads lined with shops and hotels and the occasional prostitute bar. There’s occasional taxi traffic, and a few cars, but mostly quiet streets, which is good for pedestrians because the sidewalk frequently does this:
All winter, to get home to Kadiköy I would walk down Istiklal Sk, and then down a series of narrow, steep streets to get to the Karaköy ferry, and the sidewalks were maddening, full of uneven stairs and potholes and sudden stops. There was enough car traffic to make walking in the street an annoyingly stop-and-start affair. In February the city began working on it, and the new sidewalks look to be much better, smooth and made of a novel material called “concrete.” However, this is what it looked like the other day, and what it will presumably look like for a few months yet.
So pedestrians beware: the sidewalks are trying to give you twisted ankles and stress aneurysms, and the cars are all trying to kill you.