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Taking a Bite out of Traffic in Istanbul, Turkey

I recently visited Istanbul, Turkey and was struck immediately by the car traffic congestion. However, knowing that Istanbul hosted the World Carfree Conference last year, I set out to uncover what NYC can learn from a city with a population of 12 million plus people, 2.4 million cars and at least 100,000 new vehicles each year.

I met up with urban planner, World Carfree Network Advisory Board Member and local StreetStar, Kevser Üstündag. As a professor at the Architectural Faculty of Mimar Sinan Fine Art University in Istanbul, she teaches about the social, environmental and economical impacts of urban transportation planning. In this video she discusses the importance of adjusting urban planning to the needs of people - including public transportation, pedestrian only streets, and Car-free Sundays.


Kevser Ustundag: [00:08] I’m an urban planner and the planning should find some problems to solve. And Istanbul have traffic problems waiting to solve.


Kevser Ustundag: [00:18] My name is Kevser Ustundag. I’m giving lectures about urban transportation, especially alternative transportation system in the city.


Kevser Ustundag: [00:29] We are trying to improve pedestrian streets and improve humanised cities.


Kevser Ustundag: [00:39] We are losing lots of time in the car and we need to reduce car usage because of the global warming.


Kevser Ustundag: [00:50] I don’t have car and I can have a chance to use all the public transport systems. We have metro systems but I call it Sunday metro systems because it’s so, so small. Nowadays it is enlarging and we have light rail transit, nearly 500 kilometres expected rail transit systems will be planned. We have in the street, public transportation, also the nostalgic tram line, and this is just for the people who is working around the street. Also we have [unintelligible 01:29], sea public transportation. We are trying to improve the connections between all these transportation systems.


Kevser Ustundag: [01:41] We are in the Istanbul Beyoglu Street and as you see behind me and lots of people using this pedestrian street. In this street, beginning of the closing in 1987, it becomes very difficult because all people who had their shops here, they against this subject because they think that they lose their capacity of trade because they all people can come here with their cars. But the important things is you see now we are, nearly 20 years after, all shops getting more and more reach and all [unintelligible 02:25] shops come here trying to take place here, and people not only come here for the trade for buying something, just for fun and also this place very important for the social group because all the media around here. They have some special places, if something happened they wanted to see because this is the part of Istanbul. Without Beyoglu, Istanbul lose their identity.


Kevser Ustundag: [02:57] I prepared a project about one day a month one street closed from the cars and we call it Car-Free Sundays. We made four Car-Free Sundays, different places in the Istanbul. During these periods we learned from the people if you do this kind of project, people can join you, people can use their car spaces as if they are parking areas, not for car parking areas, parking for picnic areas, like green parking areas. If one neighbourhood didn’t have any space for the common usage, like park garden, and we have only small balconies, and we offer them to use their streets as a picnic area, as a breakfast area, as a area for their children and face to face relations. And we try to regain our public places from the cars and we try to give people these places for their liveability and for their mobility.


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  • Melan

    cool, nice clip!

  • http://thecityfix.com Ethan Arpi

    This is a fantastic video! Thanks for the link over on TheCityFix. I'll definitely get this up on our site.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Nicholas Whitaker

    Great job press! I'm jealous. All i got to do was visit LA.

  • http://breathingplanet.net andrew

    nice one, EP.

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