In 1984, the Princes’ Islands off the coast of Istanbul were designated as a car free natural and urban protection area. In a city that has more than its fair share of congestion problems, the islands provide a sanctuary of clean air and zero traffic to both residents and visitors to Istanbul.
Background & Objectives
The Princes’ Islands are a chain of nine islands off the coast of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea, accessible by ferry from both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. The islands are administered from the largest of their number, Büyükada (Big Island), which covers an area of 5.36km2. In the 2000 census, Büyükada recorded a population of 7,320, however this figure increases 10-15 times in the summer months as the majority of properties on the island are holiday homes. In 1984, the Princes’ Islands were declared as a natural and urban protection area, and all motorised vehicles were banned.
Aside from service vehicles, no motorised vehicles are permitted on the islands, creating a smoke-free, noise-free and clean environment that has raised interest in the islands as a tourism destination, along with their rich histories and natural beauty.>Public transport on the islands takes the form of horse-drawn carriages, known as “faytons,” which also provide tours for tourists, and charge by the carriage, rather than by passenger number. There are also bikes available to rent close to the port at Büyükada.
In 2007, the World Carfree Network held its “Towards Carfree Cities Conference” in Istanbul, and included an excursion to Büyükada in the programme. The conference participants met with the mayor of the Princes’ Islands during the trip, who promised “no matter how fast the car industry develops, this island will remain car free”.
While the Princes’ Islands are only a small-scale example of car-free living, with a definite defined boundary that allows easy implementation, they provide a good model of the benefits that can be drawn when all motorised vehicles are removed. The islands have become a haven of clean air and zero traffic in a city of 12 million people.