Turkey: Cycling and public transport rehabilitated in light of the crisis

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It is a global phenomenon that spares no country, and which hits the poorest hardest: Inflation undermines everyone’s purchasing power. In Turkey, it is breaking historical records, reaching 80% over a year in July. Of all the product categories, transport has risen the most with an annual price increase of 119%. As a result, more and more Turks are abandoning their cars. They prefer public transport and sometimes other modes of travel.

At a gas station in central Istanbul, Bülent growls as he fills up his yellow vehicle. This taxi driver looks annoyed. Gasoline prices have risen again. In a year and a half, it has even tripled in Turkey: ” It won’t stop, this inflation! Before, the price increased every week. Now it is every 24 hours. Bülent obviously has no choice, the taxi has to drive. So he tries to save the savings elsewhere, on his personal vehicle: ” My car is still in red. When I go to the gas station, I only fill up a few liters of petrol at a time. I try to ride less. I can’t afford it anymore! Fuel has become a luxury. »

Bülent rages against the state, which levies more than 25% tax on every liter of petrol – a rate that has been increasing in recent months. But the price of fuel develops above all in line with the price of oil – imports of which cover more than 90% of Turkey’s needs – and the price of the pound against the dollar, which has been collapsing for a year due to the choices made by the government .

Also read and listen: “It won’t stop, this inflation!”: In Turkey, the price of fuel explodes

Result: The Turks learn to do without their car. In an Ipsos poll published at the end of July, nine out of ten motorists say they have used it less recently because of rising fuel prices. More than seven in ten claim to go to work by public transport, whereas they used to take their own vehicle. This is the choice made by Bekir, an accountant in a company: “ Before, four days out of five, I took the car. Now my car sleeps in front of my house. If I absolutely need to, I take just enough gas for the trip. In fact, I use my car as a taxi. But 90% of the time I take the bus. It’s not ideal, the buses are overcrowded, I often have to wait for the next one or go to another stop. But I save money. And I don’t think I’ll be going back to my old ways anytime soon. »

Preferred public transport

In Istanbul, the statistics from the City Hall confirm the trends in the opinion polls. Between June 2021 and May 2022, the number of monthly passengers on public transport increased by 67%. This includes buses, trams, boats or subways.

Istanbulites therefore prefer public transport, which is cheaper than the car, even though the price of this transport itself has increased a lot – by 36% in 2022.

The explosion of fuel prices and general inflation are also pushing some Turks to sell their cars. And even, for a small part of them, to give up any kind of motorized vehicle. Adem, a veterinary technician, pedals for an hour and a half every day, round trip, between his home and his workplace: “ Everything became too expensive, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I sold my car and bought a bike. If I still traveled by car, it would cost me 2 000 pounds a month just for petrol. It’s free there! Also, I no longer have the palpitations I used to have, I’ve lost weight, and I smoke less because I smoked 3 or 4 cigarettes on my car rides. My health has benefited from the change. »

His wallet, his health, but not necessarily his social life. Due to inflation, Adem says he can no longer go out with his friends, not to mention the vacations he is not taking this summer.

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