This Thursday, June 3, is World Bike Day, a day devoted to celebrating this eco- and health-friendly form of transportation and sport. Coined in 2018 by the United Nations, the world over will now be celebrating this special date in honor of the blessed bike, making it an opportune time to look at some of the new developments in Turkey aimed at making cycling more accessible.
Luckily, Istanbul has a number of convenient and beautiful cycling routes that serve as an excellent break from the city’s chaotic traffic and make great getaway routes to some of the metropolis’ neighboring natural oases. In the city itself, efforts have been ongoing to establish “Akıllı Bisiklet” (smart bike) routes and rental spots throughout the city. This project, referred to as ISBIKE, offers the opportunity for easily accessible short-term bicycle rentals and access to designated bike paths throughout the city. Thus far, there are 144 kilometers (89.47 miles) of routes and 142 bike rental spots and approximately 3,000 bikes available for rental through an easy-to-navigate app.
The city itself has two expansive cycling and walking paths along both its Asian and European sides. Starting in Kadıköy on the Asian side, there is a nearly uninterrupted landscaped path along the coast of the Marmara Sea that takes cyclists through Caddebostan, Bostancı, Maltepe, Kartal and then all the way to Tuzla, for what could end up being an 80-kilometer round-trip bike ride.
Similarly, on the European side there are biking routes that span from Karaköy to Sarıyer, Bakırköy to Yenikapı and Küçükçekmece and from Florya to Yeşilköy. The project continues to grow and at present a 17 kilometer-route is being designated in Aksaray.
While this project aims to establish safe cycling routes in the heart of the city, as many Istanbul residents will know, fortunately, there are also a number of extremely pleasant and peaceful routes on the outskirts that are easily accessible from the city and have always served as fun getaways.
A world away
While the expansive Belgrad Forest is easily accessible by road from Istanbul proper, it feels like a world away and just so happens to house a 16-kilometer cycling course in the Neşet Suyu Nature Park. Meanwhile, on the other end of Istanbul is the Black Sea coastal town of Şile from where it is possible to embark on a 40-kilometer ride to Ağva, which is an idyllic nature retreat, equipped with a lake.
Cycling on Büyükada or any of the Princes’ Islands for that matter has long been a favorite pastime for Istanbul’s city dwellers. An easily accessible ferryboat ride, which embarks from a number of destinations throughout the city stops in a loop of Büyükada, the largest yet hilliest and a 12-kilometer ride, and heads on to the smaller islands of Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada.
Take a breath of green air!
Turkey’s Forestry Department has also been making headway on a project entitled “Yeşil Nefes Turları,” in English “Green Breath Tours,” which involves the establishment of trails to serve ecotourism in some of Turkey’s natural habitats. The project aims to provide vacationing opportunities that will increase awareness of environmental protection. The project plans to establish nearly 40 ecotourism routes in 29 different provinces, which will include accommodation, hiking and biking paths. The first stage includes six different routes that started with Büyükada, followed by a route in Muğla’s Köyçeğiz and most recently in Yalova. The Yalova route will start at Gökçetepe and end at the waterfall at Yatakkaya Şelalesi and is intended to promote this region especially known for its thermal springs. Upcoming cycling routes that will soon be introduced within the “Green Breath” project include Bursa’s Inegöl, Kütahya and Çandır in Muğla.
Frig Valley Bicycle Festival
Over the weekend of June 18-20, there will be a bike-riding festival taking place in Frig Valley that will feature daily rides through the ancient ruins and castles coupled with camping out along Emre Lake. Located in Afyonkarahisar and spreading out to Eskişehir and Kütahya, Frig Valley is an area once inhabited by the Phrygians. Dating to 1,200 years B.C., the Phrygians were an ancient civilization that worshiped the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele and once inhabited this area that is now known as Frig Valley. This three-day cycling festival has a contingent of 200 participants and will have all the necessary safety measures put in place for the campgrounds and ride by the local municipality. The event will take riders daily through the ancient sites and castles in the region that, while lesser-known than Cappadocia, has fairy chimneys in addition to the mausoleum of the beloved Islamic mystic poet Yunus Emre. There are also hot air balloon rides and boat trips on the lake that will be available as activities on the sidelines.
Moving on up to Uludağ
On June 27, the first-ever Uludağ Bisiklet Tırmanışı (Uludağ Bicycle Climb) will be a race for riders aged 18 to 64, who will tackle a 31.7-kilometer course starting from Çekirge Park (Çekirge Millet Bahçesi) at 200 meters elevation and ending at the finish line in Uludağ at an elevation of 1,500 meters. Known for being Turkey’s premier sky resort town, coupled with the spectacular views, flora and fauna that the region is famed for, should make this an epic ride for the anticipated 500 participants to take part in. It is hoped that it will be the first of what should become an annual race. Applications are being accepted up until June 17 at www.osmangaziuludagtirmanisi.com.
Bodrum’s Turgutreis to have easy-access bike rentals
In another first, on May 23, Turkey’s most popular vacation destination Bodrum was the host of a Gran Fondo in which nearly 1,000 cyclists from 11 different countries raced on two courses, one 56 kilometers and the other 103 kilometers around the peninsula. At a press meeting for the event Mayor Ahmet Aras shared the good news of plans to establish municipal bicycle rental stops in Turgutreis. Bodrum just happens to have an extremely accessible and pleasant bicycle route that starts off at Kadıkalesi and ends in Akyarlar and is 14 kilometers long with Turgutreis centered smack-dab in the center.