The Sidewalks of Istanbul (2 cents)

The sidewalks of American cities are remarkably well maintained, for the most part.  Whether they are cement, or brick, or stone, they are generally relatively free of trip hazards and, in many cities, even have curb ramps allowing “pedestrians” in wheelchairs, or pushing strollers, to have smooth sailing as they go from block to block.

Not so in Istanbul.  If you are wheelchair bound in Istanbul, my best advice would be to leave town.  The sidewalks are irregular, generally not maintained at all, vary in composition (and grade) from building to building, require constant vigilence, and are often obstructed with restaurant tables, displays of various items for sale, or with seemingly anything anyone wants to put there.

I was talking about this recently with a friend who was in Istanbul some years ago (a regular reader, you know who you are) and in an earlier posting I had remarked on the obstructions placed on sidewalks often forcing you to walk in the streets where the automobiles seem less a danger than the uneven pavement.  Thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that the reason that everything is so different in Turkey may have a simple answer.

In this country, sidewalks are generally owned by and maintained by the municipality.  Perhaps, this is not true in Istanbul.  Perhaps there sidewalks are simply a part of the land owned by the owner of the abutting building.  Perhaps, they are not maintained by the city.  This would explain the difference in material and elevation of adjoining sidewalk parcels on a single block, and the difference in use and maintenance.  Perhaps in Istanbul you don’t have the ‘right’ to walk on a sidewalk, like you do here, and that you are using the sidewalk as the guest of the building owner.

This would make the sidewalks outside private space which custom allows you to use, and not outside public space maintained and highly regulated by the authorities.

I don’t know if in fact this is the case.  But it would explain a lot.


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