How to improve gender disparities in mobility and urban spaces

TTT Podcast

Gender-inclusive mobility with Ines Kawgan-Kagan and Sonal Shah

What lies ahead on the road to gender-inclusive mobility?

In many cities, there is no lack of options for getting from Point A to Point B. Though no two cities are alike when it comes to mobility choices, in many places around the world, residents can choose between walking, biking, driving and taking public transit to meet their daily needs.

Yet there are numerous variables that go into deciding the best option for getting to your destination. Often, these variables change based on demographics.

“Gender is one of the most robust determinants of transport choice,” Mary Crass, Head of Institutional Relations and Summit of International Transport Forum has said. To ensure equitable access to transport options, transport planners in Europe and in the Global South need to consider the different ways that people use transport based on their gender, as well as their age and income.

Gendered differences in transport choices

“Not only do men and women live different daily lives, they use transport in entirely different ways,” says Dr. Ines Kawgan-Kagan, Managing Director at Accessible Equitable Mobility GmbH Women, Kawgan-Kagan notes, tend to take more trips than men do, and often these trips take place during the day as a result of gender-typical task division in households, with women being more responsible for errands and childcare.

“We know that women connect trips through complex trip chains and each trip is shorter on average because the destinations are closer to their homes. They chain them up to complex radial nets around their home. While in contrast men have a more linear way of traveling.”

Yet when it comes to transport planning for all of us, the vast majority (over 90%) of those actively engaged in transport planning are men. That leaves some of the issues that drive women’s choices unaddressed, as Sonal Shah, founder of The Urban Catalysts and Executive Director of the Centre for Sustainable and Equitable Cities, points out.

Adding nuance to the demographic breakdown

Shah, who noted that the rape of a woman on a bus in India in 2012 created her drive to look at urban planning through a feminist lens, says that safety and security plays a much bigger role for women than for men. Women aged 18 to 34 are more likely to experience sexual harassment on public transport, yet women are less likely to own a car in many countries and thus are captive users of public transport. Finding ways to address this issue is key to closing the gender mobility gap that might see women shrink their travel radius due to safety concerns.

To find adequate solutions to close the gender mobility gap, we need to move away from generalizing based on gender alone. Disaggregating the statistics can provide more nuanced information that helps to create positive changes in the community’s transit options, says Shah, who notes that walking is a predominant mode of transport as well as the most frequent means of first and last mile connectivity in India. Determining what hindrances exist to ensuring women feel safe and able to use public transport or other means of transportation such as bicycling, is key to overcoming them through transport planning.

To hear more from these two experts on gender-inclusive mobility, listen to our podcast HERE.

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