“Are you crazy?” is a question cyclists in Istanbul often hear. The city’s steep hills, poor roads, and dangerous drivers make it a hair-raising place for anyone on two wheels. But with Istanbul’s roads wracked with gridlock, the city’s cyclists are mounting a campaign to claim a bigger share of the road.
According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which completed a transportation master plan for Istanbul in 2009, car traffic in this city of roughly 13 million, one of Europe’s largest metropolitan areas, will nearly quadruple over 15 years.
Once a month, dozens of cyclists gather in Goztepe Park on Istanbul’s Asian side to take to the avenues. They are part of Critical Mass, a worldwide bicycle protest movement whose riders regularly swamp roads, demanding more space -- and more respect -- from drivers.
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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, where he writes for The Times. David Trilling is EurasiaNet.org’s Central Asia editor.