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Surviving Istanbul traffic to Silivri (74/15,495k, 650m)

(written by Dave)

We are safe in Silivri but what a ride it was to get here.  We’d read a lot about today’s route in fellow cyclists’ blogs but we could never have imagined how crazy the D100 traffic was going to be.

We were up early, eating the pre-packaged brekkie that the hotel folks made for us the night before.  Somehow we got all the bags down to the bikes and loaded without waking any other hotel guests.  In fact we barely woke the night clerk.  He was sleeping on a couch in the waiting area and could only manage to yell at us every time we walked past with a load for the bikes, “checking out, room number, key, you have key…”.  Then he’d roll over and go back to sleep.  I suspect that folks may have accidently left the hotel with the room key during his shift in the past.  For the record, we left the hotel at 6:15 and yes, we left the room key on the counter and the night man still sleeping on the couch.

We basically backtracked our route to the ferry for the first part of the day.  The ride coming into town six days ago was hell but this morning it was easy.  In fact, the first 22k on Kennedy and Yesilkoy streets took us along the waterfront and past the airport with little issue and almost no traffic.  There were scattered clouds and a slight tailwind.  We were starting to feel pretty good about our early start.

When we neared the D100, we could see a lot more traffic but it wasn’t until we merged onto it that we discovered how much there actually was.  On this particular route, the D100 crosses three small bays over bridges and there is no other road.  This means that all traffic going in and out of the city that is not up on the motorway is on the D100.  When we first joined it was downhill to the first bridge and we were able to keep the speed up and take a full lane.  There were some really bad pavement sections and no shoulder but taking a lane made us safe.  At this point there are six lanes going each direction; two lanes separated by a guardrail on our right, for buses and taxis to drop off and pick up passengers, three lanes on our left for through traffic and finally one express lane separated by guardrail, also on our left.  There was no shoulder anywhere.  This was all repeated on the other side of the road going in the opposite direction – we have never ridden on a 12 lane road before.

It was probably about 7:15AM and the first 5 lanes were completely packed.  We never saw a single car in the express lane, or really figured out how to get into it.  Once we crossed the first bridge, it started to rain and we had to ride up over a headland.  This would have been a nightmare had there not been a massive bus station at the top of the hill where every bus and taxi seemed to be stopping and causing a real traffic jam for the entire climb.  We were able to ride faster than the cars and were passing them.  When they saw us, they pulled to the left to give us a little room – nice.  So we basically wove our way up the hill with three lanes of traffic on our left and two on our right.

After the first hill traffic thinned a little bit but this just let the cars and buses drive faster and actually made it less safe for us.  Every kilometer or so, there as an opening in the guardrail on our right for the bus and taxi crew to enter or exit the pick-up road.  This often meant that we were in their way and we had to really concentrate to time our sprints across gaps.  We had to stop a few times and wait.  Not all of the buses pickup passengers on the special road.  They apparently don’t have enough stops over there and some buses made “wildcat” stops in our lane – we had to wait behind them.  Not that the stops were very long as here – as in the rest of Turkey, the buses don’t ever come to a complete stop.  Passengers have to hop on and off as the bus is rolling slowly past.

I’m pretty sure that there are some nice views of the sea here and maybe a few mosques to look at but neither of us could tell you.  I have no photos, are you kidding, stop and take a photo!  It was real white knuckle riding for about 15k and we could do nothing but focus on the road and all the cars zipping about.  If the ride we did on the south coast of Turkey was one of the prettiest we’ve ever done, then this one has to be one of the craziest.  We stopped at servo for a break and to catch our breath – wow, that was wild.

Over the last 35k the traffic gradually thinned.  That’s not to say that the ride was easy as the D100 narrowed to 2 lanes each direction and the shoulder was variable; sometimes great, sometimes nothing at all.  We had to keep a close eye on our mirrors to know if we had to dive off onto the dirt verge or if we could safely take an inch of the right lane.  I got the camera out here but it was pretty grey with rain threatening the entire time so pictures today are mostly post ride.

We arrived in Silivri about 11:00 and decided to get a hotel rather than camp.  Our nerves were shot and we didn’t fancy sitting in the tent in the rain.  The one hotel that we knew about turned out to be on the other side of the D100 and not accessible to our side – the centre guardrail prevented crossing.  So we headed into town and found the Park Hotel.  It doesn’t look great from the outside and in fact has a couple derelict buildings across the street.  The inside is nice however and Nancy negotiated an ok rate.  The room is massive and we can see the sea from the window.

We had lunch at a local restaurant just around the corner – lahmacun for Nancy, pide with spicy sausage for me.  I also had a glass of ayran, the traditional yogurt they drink by the gallons here.  Most places we have eaten just serve the drink in prepacked drinks but this place served it out of a big container, complete with foam on top.  After the very tasty lunch to revive us we walked to the waterfront area.  It was the first time all day that I felt I could relax and look at the water even though we road along it all day.  We were both completely exhausted and snuck in naps after lunch.  We didn’t ride very far today but I’m sure that we spent double the nervous energy that we normally would.  All those blogs we read about the D100 and Istanbul traffic were on the mark, if not a little understated.  It was a real test – we passed and survived so all up, it’s a good result.

We now have 2 more days of the D100 to reach Erdine.  We’ve read that the road condition here is about the same but the traffic should be better and we’ll get an early start the next two days to be safe.  As it is the weekend, we are hoping for and easier ride.  Tomorrow, 19 May, is a public holiday here – it is Youth and Sports Day, a commemoration of Atuturk and the anniversary a famous military landing at Samsun from 1919, marking the start of the Turkish war of independence.  We don’t really know what to expect with the holiday.  Who knows, we may find ourselves in a parade on the good old D100 – we’ll see.  We should have something to look at anyway – apparently Turkey’s most modern and Europe’s largest prison complex is located 9 km west of Silivri.  We promise not to stop and pick up any hitchhikers.

It is raining with thunder and lightning so we probably made a good call on stopping here and getting a hotel.  We’ll have to brave the rain shortly to get something for dinner…

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10 responses to “Surviving Istanbul traffic to Silivri (74/15,495k, 650m)

  1. I am glad you are safe but I will worry about you all weekend.

  2. That ride tops driving the motor home in the wind. A white knuckle week

  3. Wow – this would be my last day on the bike – way too scary

  4. Hope the worst of the D100 ride is over. Will be nice to hear that you are back on somewhat less stressful roads. Looks like some more good food (good job on gettig the photos before the eating begins).

    • Thanks Dale/Patti/Alice and Donalean for the thoughts and concerns over the road. It was bad, but we made it and tomorrow while on the same road number, our reports indicate a nice shoulder most of the route. Today was by far the worst of the D100 and we’ll be safe tomorrow.

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  5. Just reading about your ride got my pulse rate up! As Dave use to tell me, ride safe…

  6. Nancy, you look a little stressed out/tired after that adventure! Thanks for the photo, Dave…let’s see how many countries that “phrase” or pronunciation crops up in. 🙂 It makes me miss all the politeness in Cambodia!

  7. Wow. Sounds like someone should start a bicycle shuttle business there. I don’t think I would have risked it!

    • Sometimes you start a ride thinking “how bad can it bet”, where “it” is rain, wind, hills and occationally traffic. Well, the day from Istanbul it (traffic) was “that” bad, probably worse.

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