Sokak Bizim Derneği – The Street Belongs to Us Association – is a non-governmental organization aiming to reach more liveable cities through creating alternative solutions to urban problems. As Sokak Bizim, we are trying to raise awareness of people on urban issues, especially focusing on sustainable transportation, pedestrian and bicycle accessibility, and public spaces. Within this scope, we are organizing events, campaigns and developing projects in collaboration with different stakeholders in cities.
MOST IMPORTANT CURRENT ISSUES
Istanbul is a metropolitan city where traffic congestion is one of the biggest problems. This is mainly because of the vehicle-oriented approach, implementations and investments which is causing adequate and unsafe infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. Considering that Istanbul is a metropolitan city, we can say that it is very hard to develop a safe pedestrian and bicycle network all around the city in short term. Nevertheless, it is very positive and promising that Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality have started to make Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plans but the progress is very slow.
BEST LOCAL EXAMPLE TO SHOWCASE
The most successful and well-known project of our NGO is called Streets Belongs to Us Once in A Month!
These events were organized to show people how they can use their streets as a safe, open and carfree public space. Different stakeholders such as municipalities, residents, and NGOs have worked together for the organization of these events. At each event, a selected residential street was closed to motorized traffic on a Sunday. Street music, street games, art workshops with children, sport events with residents were organized to create a pedestrian oriented street. The events were carried out in a street festival style, providing residents an opportunity to use streets as they want and allow their children to play in safe traffic-free open areas that would usually be danger zones.
“Streets Belongs to Us Once in a Month” activities set out good practice principles for social actions aiming to create human-centered streets. It was organized in fifteen different streets of Istanbul and made permanent physical changes in 3 streets.
ONGOING PROJECTS AND CAMPAIGNS
As Street Belongs to Us, we are currently working on developing a board game called Your Street is Your Choice. With this game, we aim raise awareness about pedestrian-oriented streets by creating different alternatives of a street section. The game has pieces of a street such as sidewalks, bicycle roads, public transport, green areas, and houses that allow players to design the street in their dreams.
SUCCESSFUL PREVIOUS PROJECTS
World Carfree Day Events: We have organized several Carfree Day events in Istanbul in the form of Carfree Sundays and Parking Day events.
Where is the sidewalk? Campaign: This campaign was based on pedestrian rights which is under threat in car dominated cities. To advocate our pedestrian rights, we started this campaign to raise awareness on this problem. We developed two versions of this campaign; first we used a printed ruler to measure the sidewalks and share through social media. You can see some images that was shared by participants which clearly shows the inadequate situation of sidewalks.
For the second version, we developed an online map that visualizes these problems on an online platform. In this way, people were able to see the locations of pedestrian accessibility problems that occur in many cities in Turkey. It became possible to visualize which problems were common, such as vehicle occupation on sidewalks emerged as the main obstacle against pedestrian accessibility.
Podcast Series: We have launched a podcast series called From Street to Your Ear and recorded 18 episodes which focused on our NGO’s projects as well as current urban mobility issues in Turkiye.