So, my approach to ankara involved a few days in istanbul and a couple on the aegean coast and everyone I met kept warning me about how boring Ankara was. ‘It’s just a capital city with lots of public servants, it’s a planned city with no history’. I kept thinking about canberra. But worse than canberra they said no one rides bicycles in Ankara. I was starting to feel a little reluctant to get the overnight bus to a place which had ‘car’ in it’s name. But boring cities can still have interesting transport, and everything is relative – a city in turkey with no history still has castles and turkish baths and museums.
I have now spent a few days in Ankara – it’s the first city of my project with a metro system, but sadly it seems to be lacking a bicycle presence. It’s a lively city with lots of pedestrians. There are overhead pedestrian walkways to cross roads, wide footpaths and some pedestrian malls in the centre of the city that are teaming with people. Having said this, locals complain that not all the pedestrian infrastructure has been well allocated. I don’t know about this, but I know the council of Ankara likes spending money on things like colourful fluorescent lights in trees and benches in the median strip of a highway (which can come in handy when you have been standing and waiting for a gap in the traffic I guess but not really where I’d want to spend my Sundays). But however they are catered for, the pedestrians are definitely a force in Ankara. They have a way of crossing the road which surpasses all others I have seen. They just go for it, whether the there is a green man (oh, they have awesome animated green men here) or red man, if there is enough of them, they just take on the cars and cause traffic to back up for miles as they refuse the cars entry to the intersection.
The pedestrians and public transport (buses and dolmuses – the turkish equivalent of a matatu) interact freely, with people getting on and off dolmuses (and sometimes buses) anywhere along the road. The dolmuses will beep at pedestrians to see if they want a ride and they will jump around the lanes to get to a potential customer. While the traffic isn’t as chaotic as India, the lane structure can certainly be interesting at times, and dolmuses have a way of weaving their rather large derrieres through all sorts of gaps. Buses can be quite full at times but I have been luck enough to catch the less crowded buses of the ramadan holiday time. Now traffic is back in full swing I will have to try and my luck on some more crowded transport.
However, I have just made my most significant purchase in a long time and I want to make the most of it. I bought a brand new bicycle. The reasons are as follows:
- I want to have good control to face the traffic of Ankara
- I have only seen one other girl riding a bicycle in Ankara so it’s important to show that cycling can be fun and slightly stylish
- Most bicycles sold are children’s bikes or mountain bikes and we have to start getting the bike shops interested in marketing to commuting cyclists.
- I want to have fun and feel good on my bicycle even when facing the hills of Ankara (which I didn’t find too many of today but the locals keep telling me it’s a hilly city)
- It’s my birthday on Thursday and there is a group ride and I want it to be fun
Ok, so I have a bicycle and I’ve attacked the traffic. No one on the road is expecting you, so being careful of car doors and swerving vehicles is key for survival. On my ride I couldn’t help but want to give this city some cycling infrastructure or at least a map to help people get through this town. There are wide footpaths in some areas which could be converted to shared paths, there are spare bits of road in other areas that is currently doing nothing (except when a dolmus tries to squeeze through), there are lots of areas without parked cars, where a bicycle lane could fit. I also don’t think the hills are that bad, the weather seems nice enough and I’ve seen much worse traffic in my time. I feel like Ankara is crying out for someone to start a cycling revolution here. It’s filled with university students and public servants – the same kind of people that are riding everyday in Canberra. So the plan is to try and plant some seeds in people’s head by getting out and riding this city with a smile for a week. I might even try and make my own map of different routes as I get better at knowing where I’m going and knowing the quieter ways to go.