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If we make cities safer for women, everyone benefits

This article was originally published by Sarah Wray on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

New research from Ramboll finds that personal safety concerns about walking, cycling and using public transport have a big influence on how women move around cities.

The Gender and (Smart) Mobility report calls on cities and transport planners to adopt a safety by design approach and apply a gender lens to all projects without casting women as victims. This, it says, is the key to making all citizens feel safer.

The analysis brings together existing local and national gender-segregated transport behavior data with a survey of 3,525 people and focus groups across seven capital cities – Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, New Delhi, and Singapore.

Marianne Weinreich, Market Manager, Smart Mobility, Ramboll, told Cities Today: “This report confirms that transport is not gender neutral. There is plenty of data and research, but it’s the best kept secret in the transport industry and often is not used in projects.”

“Women are not a minority but are treated like that unconsciously in this sector, which is dominated by men,” she added. “We need to create awareness but also systems that challenge these biases.”

COVID safety

The research finds that women associate COVID-19 with public transport more than men. “Since women use public transport more than men, this creates a real risk of growing inequalities as places open up and movement levels return in our cities,” the report says.

Women also identified personal safety and fear of harassment and assault as a concern in relation to public transport more often.

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In the survey, 64 percent of women compared to 57 percent of men said the distance to a station or stop from their home influences their choice of public transportation. A third of women are influenced by whether they feel secure at the station (33 percent) and on-board transport (35 percent), compared to 28 percent and 29 percent of men respectively.

In focus group interviews, women from across geographies also expressed concerns and fears around waiting at bus stops and train stations. They reported that the design of public space, stops, stations and platforms and whether there are staff available influences how secure they feel.