Istanbul’s islands on Thursday switched to a new transport system with electric cars after the removal of horse-drawn carriages by local authorities over criticism from animal rights activists.
Murat Ongun, spokesman of the Istanbul municipality, announced on his twitter account that the lines and tariffs have become clear, with privileges to the islanders and a total of 60 cars ready for use.
The vehicles are now the only means of transportation in the Princes’ Islands, an archipelago in the Sea of Marmara, replacing the horse-drawn phaetons.
The transport problem in the islands, which are among Istanbul’s most popular tourist attractions, was fuelled by the death of nearly 100 horses after a glanders outbreak at the end of last year.
Environmental groups and activists have also been asking the authorities to halt the rides, saying the horses were struggling with diverse illnesses and fatigue as a result of malnutrition and neglect.
Following the outbreak and reactions against the mistreatment of the horses, the Istanbul municipality permanently suspended the use of phaetons last December.
But some residents of Buyukada or Big Island, the largest of the total nine islands, have expressed mixed reactions to the use of electric vehicles.
Mahmut Nuvit, a retired interior architect and resident of Buyukada, told Xinhua that the permanent suspension of the phaetons was a dramatic decision for the islanders who were used to them.
Nuvit urged local authorities to adopt practices suitable for the slow, isolated and tough island life, noting electric cars could only provide a temporary solution as they are not in line with the texture of the islands.
“Speed would kill the taste of enjoying the beauties of the islands. Passing rapidly by them is pointless,” he explained.
Emre Akyuz, a frequent visitor of Buyukada, told Xinhua that he never took a ride with a phaeton as he was strongly opposed to the abuse of horses by coachmen.
“I always prefer to walk. I couldn’t stand seeing horses suffering,” Akyuz said.
He also noted that electric vehicles would not be suitable for the islanders’ life as they would limit the walking space of pedestrians.
“They have installed big cones on the roads, reserving large parts of the street to the vehicles,” he said, urging the authorities to remove them.
Murat Aceci, another resident of Buyukada, said people were all used to the sound of the phaetons and now electric cars would suddenly appear, creating a danger for pedestrians.
“The best alternative for us would be phaetons with very well-maintained horses,” Aceci concluded.
After listening to the complaints of the residents, the municipality has started to rearrange the traffic lanes of the vehicles and remove the traffic cones, according to press reports.
Ekrem Imamoglu, mayor of Istanbul, said earlier that the municipality was not against the use of phaetons, but a new transport model had to be adopted to meet the urgent need.
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