How can our streets and neighbourhoods welcome women?

Women are asking for improved infrastructure

…a study by the City of Sydney to be released on Thursday found many women didn’t ride or walk because of the absence of dedicated walking or cycling paths.

Julie Power writing in the Sydney Morning Herald
Melissa Derwent says she would feel safer if there were more dedicated bike paths and lanes near her. Image credit: Kate Geraghty, Sydney Morning Herald

Women’s walking needs

Victoria’s growing physical and mental health costs mean it is essential Victorians are physically active and for many women, walking is more appealing than organised sport. Populating neighbourhood streets with walkers will result in safer, more social towns and suburbs. Developing neighbourhood walking routes that specifically target women will support them to walk more often. This involves planning and delivering routes that are relevant to their everyday lives with things like shops, services, schools, community facilities andspaces. Some identified walking routes will need small infrastructure improvements to ensure they are safe and convenient.

Victoria Walks, Getting Victorians back on their feet
Image credit: Victoria Walks, Getting Victorians back on their feet
Image credit: Victoria Walks, Getting Victorians back on their feet

Women’s cycling needs

Almost everywhere around the globe, cycling is dominated by men. In the Netherlands however, the cycling modal share for women in 2017 was 28% while for men it was 26%. Out of 10 bike trips made, 5.5 trips are made by women.

Women of ITE Sub-Committee

Designing for women

Our street design currently focusses on the car first and places people last. One of the most natural things we could do is reverse that thinking. As a general rule, men drive more than women, but women walk more, so its women who are the higher users of our pedestrian facilities. There must be a change of thinking so that a pedestrian-friendly environment would be created first, and then we could consider how to integrate vehicles into the remaining area. This change of thinking would enable women equitable access to our cities infrastructure. 

Emma McInnes, Urban Designer at Resilio Studio and co-founder of Women in Urbanism Aotearoa
Emma McInnes. Image credit: ACE New Zealand.

A feminist city

A feminist city must be one where barriers—physical and social—are dismantled, where all bodies are welcome and accommodated. A feminist city must be care-centered, not because women should remain largely responsible for care work, but because the city has the potential to spread care work more evenly. A feminist city must look to the creative tools that women have always used to support one another and find ways to build that support into the very fabric of the urban world.

Leslie Kern, writing in Feminist City – Claiming Space in a Man-Made World
Image credit: Verso Books

Guidance from the Netherlands

Safety is often cited as the sole reason Dutch women cycle more than men. But it’s not that simple. Their fine-grained networks support a wide variety of distances and destinations; accomodating complex, multi-purpose travel patterns outside of the “normal” 9-to-5 commute.

Chris Bruntlett, Dutch Cycling Embassy
Image credit: Chris Bruntlett, Dutch Cycling Embassy

Conclusion

Yarra’s streets can be better for women if we allocate more budget and street space to:

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