by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has to some extent changed lifestyle worldwide, stimulating the shift from cars to bikes, and Turkey's capital city Ankara is no stranger to this trend, betting on an environment-friendly future with new bicycle lanes.
Despite many negative impacts brought about by the global health crisis, one highlight is that more people are getting in the flow using pedal power.
In the city of around 6 million, more and more people have turned to bikes to avoid crammed public transportation during the pandemic.
The two-wheeled steerable machines have proven to have more health benefits during lockdowns compared with crowded public transportation because of social distancing.
"We can definitely say that there's a change of habits, a turn towards cycling as a lifestyle. I am witnessing this change," veteran cyclist Tunca Bayoglu told Xinhua on the pavement of a busy street in the city's downtown.
"I am very happy to ride a bike, and use it every day to go to work. I was able to go wherever I liked without bothering during the pandemic ... as prices of cars have also gone up recently, people are trying to avoid traffic by cycling," he noted.
This 48-year-old musician is a cycling fan for over 30 years and happy to see that there is a growing interest in this environmental-friendly transportation method in times of climate change consciousness.
To support the two-wheeled transport method, the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality is constructing car-free cycle lanes in different parts of the city to accommodate this change of habits in residents.
"We are planning to finish our project to construct some 53.6 km of blue bicycle lanes in a year," said Ali Onuralp Unal, the municipal official responsible for the initiative.
Also a cycling enthusiast, Unal explained that the goal is to integrate blue cycling lanes with the public transportation grid, making it much easier for users to travel across the city.
"We aim to satisfy citizens' growing demands for bicycle roads ... and build a healthy, economic, environmentalist, accessible, safe and sustainable transportation system," Unal added.
Ten university campuses, two organized industrial zones, 30 public enterprises, over 40 schools, sports complexes, hospitals, shopping malls and parks will ultimately be part of the system.
With the completion of the remaining stages, the bicycle roads will also be connected to each other.
Bicycle users are positive about the initiative which they think will have a ripple effect on other small towns of central Anatolia.
"I would never have hoped to see special bike roads in Ankara. We can now with ease go as far as we like without the fear of an accident using an interconnected transport grid," Bayoglu remarked.
He added that there's also an urgent need to educate motorcar users to be considerate of two-wheelers in traffic to prevent accidents, sometimes fatal, on Turkish roads involving cyclists.
The Turkish bike retail experienced a sharp increase last year, according to industry officials.
Meanwhile, the Turkish state is also engaging to support the two-wheeled world of transport and extend the bicycle lane infrastructure.
According to the presidential plan for 2022, a bicycle path master plan and implementation plan will be prepared and new bicycle paths will be built in this context with new state investments.
The Implementation Plan for 1,700 km of First Stage Bicycle Paths will also be published and financial support will be provided for the construction of new bicycle paths in line with the demands from the municipalities across Turkey.