Women in the Streets – How to Make Urban Mobility Safe and Accessible for All

01.11.2022, Regina Schröter

One of today’s biggest challenges for cities around the globe is providing safe, accessible and sustainable urban transport for their citizens. [Urban Mobility Explained (UMX)](https://bit.ly/3h2OUeW), the new YouTube channel powered by [EIT Urban Mobility](https://bit.ly/3DwAY4g), is providing short and easy-to-follow videos that showcase cutting-edge practices and concepts in urban mobility throughout Europe and the world. All Things Urban partnered up with UMX for this article series, so you can get inspired, learn and implement their insights to make our cities better places. This first piece introduces the topic of gender equality in urban mobility planning and what practical steps professionals can take to design cities for all. The moment you step out of your home, the decisions you make and the challenges you are facing moving through the city are highly dependent on people’s gender. Despite the still common belief that urban mobility is gender-neutral by default, researchers and practitioners are becoming aware of the inherently different behavioral patterns and experiences of women navigating city streets. We will now take a look at how women practitioners are working on the topic of gender equality in mobility in Copenhagen, Paris and Brussels. # SAFETY FIRST, THEN WOMEN WILL CYCLE Although in today’s societies traditional gender roles are crumbling – men leaving for work in the morning and returning late whilst women are staying at home, doing care work and running errands – lifestyle differences are still dominating urban mobility patterns. Whilst men are usually taking cars for long trips from home to the workplace and back, women’s journeys are more fragmented. They have to combine work with family duties – taking care of children and the elderly – and thereby travel between multiple stops and shorter distances. If we add other errands and chores, the arising mobility patterns of women are becoming increasingly fragmented – all whilst they are oftentimes carrying extra baggage, small children or grocery bags with them. Although this sounds highly complicated, there already exists a mode of urban transportation that is catering thoroughly to women’s needs – cycling! In order to transform cities into places that are inviting everyone to participate in public life, we must understand the challenges that specifically women have when cycling. In the video below, Urban Mobility Explained interviews Marianne Weinreich, Market Manager Smart Mobility at Ramboll and Chair and co-founder of the Cycling Embassy in Denmark. She shares insight into data collected in Copenhagen on the perceived challenges of women and men when cycling. Whilst unpleasant weather was mentioned equally often by both genders, a significantly higher concern for women turned out to be traffic safety. “Women won’t cycle if it’s not safe!”, says Weinreich. Check out the video to see concrete examples of how the Danish are designing safe cycling infrastructure in the city of Copenhagen. <iframe width="960" height="540" src="https://bit.ly/3DqNDpv" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> # WALKING THE TALK: WOMEN’S SAFETY AUDITS Now that we learned how to make it easier for women to navigate the urban environment during the day, we will have a look at women’s experiences in cities at night. Dark alleyways, unobservable corners and ill-lit parks are some of the many reasons why women feel unsafe and vulnerable moving through public spaces at night time. As mentioned before, safety concerns are a key factor for women when it comes to making mobility decisions. Consequently, this makes the use of private cars, taxis and ride-hailing options very attractive and, from a woman’s perspective, oftentimes unavoidable. In the short film below, meet Dominique Poggi, sociologist and founder of the collective à places égales in Paris, who is utilizing the methodology of women’s safety audits as a participation tool to shed light on women’s experiences in urban environments. Her method has been used by the Municipality of Paris since 2009 and is inviting women residents to identify places in the city that make them feel unsafe to move through. By walking together through the city, women can reflect on their observations and share their concerns in a collective act of empowerment. In the video below, you can learn how to apply the method of women’s safety audits and how the participants’ insights are brought to the level of decision-making. <iframe width="960" height="540" src="https://bit.ly/3WpMQxw" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> # EQUALITY FROM EARLY ON Now that we learned about the importance of addressing women’s perspectives in urban mobility planning, how we can make cities safer for women and what is already happening about this issue in Copenhagen and Paris, let us visit our last stop, Brussels. Claire Pelgrims, a researcher specializing in Women’s Mobility at the Free University of Brussels, and Laura Chaumont, Director of Garance ASBL, in the video below explain that making cities more livable for women starts when we educate our children about public space. Hear their advice on how to make urban planning processes more inclusive in the video below! <iframe width="960" height="540" src="https://bit.ly/3gRsHjJ" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> As Claire Pelgrims states in the interview with UMX, transforming cities into more gender-equal places can only happen, when women get into positions of power and decision-making in terms of urban planning. Private players and public stakeholders need to hire more women professionals in leadership positions, so they can contribute their perspectives and expertise to solving urban challenges. Gender equality starts with women being able to move safely through our cities’ streets and is not completed until we have equal opportunities in all areas of society. Subscribe to [Urban Mobility Explained's YouTube channel](https://bit.ly/3SXQFan) for more insights into building accessible mobility infrastructure and stay tuned for our upcoming articles that will explore more niches in urban mobility! {{Pic1: This article is sponsored by EIT Urban Mobility — an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology working to encourage positive changes in the way people move around cities in order to make them more liveable places. }}