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Transport is not gender-neutral: could catering for women's trips reduce car dependency?

Women tend to have more complex patterns of mobility characterised by trip chaining, work travel, care-giving duties, running errands and buying groceries. The car and walking rank the highest for women across seven indicators driving mode choice, mainly based on reliability

Juliana O'Rourke
23 November 2020

 

It is now well established that transport is not gender-neutral. Women and men have different mobility realities. Global research by organisations such as the UN show that women tend to have more complex patterns of mobility characterised by trip chaining (making numerous small trips as part of a larger journey such as running errands and buying groceries on the way to work) and caregiving duties (known as the ‘mobility of care’).

The study explores the drivers of car dependency for women including transport infrastructure, significant caregiving responsibilities, safety concerns and equality of access to quality services. Throughout the report policy opportunities are identified to provide a way forward. This study shows us that designing transport that people will use and love requires new ideas and a new level of gendersensitivity in policy and practice

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has published a paper, with a series of insighful case studies, on gender issues in transport: Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes – Understanding Women's travel needs in Ireland, to inform the future of sustainable transport policy and design.

Says TII: 'With women accounting for half of the population, TII recognises the importance of understanding and addressing the different mobility patterns and needs of both women and men. This study, which investigates the needs and travel behaviours of women, is the first of its kind in Ireland, and TII is delighted to be part of an essential step towards developing deeper insights into the transport experience for women.'

The study explores the drivers of car dependency for women including transport infrastructure, significant caregiving responsibilities, safety concerns and equality of access to quality services.

The car and walking rank the highest for women across seven indicators driving mode choice, mainly based on reliability.

Throughout the report policy opportunities are identified to provide a way forward. This study shows us that designing transport that people will use and love requires new ideas and a new level of gender sensitivity in policy and practice.

Accessibility in transport is also an issue being explored by Landor LINKS, starting with an all-female plenary session on 'Beyond the commute: re-thinking travel demand – overcoming gender bias in current data and models', held at this year's Modelling World. Chaired by Aruna Sivakumar, Executive Director, Urban Systems Lab, Imperial College London, the session features views and insights from Sherin Francis, Transport planner, Jacobs, Nila Sari, Principal Transport Modeller, Department for Transport, Claire Cheriyan, Strategic Analysis Manager, Transport for London and Susanna Kerry, Lead Transport Modeller, Transport for London. 

In Ireland, women rely heavily on the car

Mobility of care drives women’s travel patterns, the study found, with women’s primary reason for travelling is to drop off and collect children or family members, while men’s primary reason is travelling for work. Worrying key figures include:

  • 55% of women stated that they would not use public transport at night

  • Outside of Dublin, 81% women own or have access to a car

  • 95% women consider the car to be a necessity

  • in Dublin, 66% women own or have access to a car

  • 79% women consider the car to be a necessity

  • 34% of women stated that feelings of insecurity have prevented them from travelling

Globally, personal safety is the most widespread concern for women when travelling. Women worry about their safety when travelling alone, at night, waiting in or moving through empty or isolated locations and in poorly lit or overcrowded transport spaces. 

This deeper understanding of women and transport is not only important in terms of improving Ireland’s transport networks for all users; it is also critical in the fight against climate change and urgent need to transition the sector to carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Call to action

Transport is often seen as gender-neutral, providing benefit to all equally. However, a growing body of international research highlights that this is not the case. Women and men can have different needs, constraints and expectations for using transport. If women feel more empowered and safe to use sustainable transport modes such as walking, cycling, public transport and carpooling, there will be less dependence on cars, more public transport trips taken across the day and night, and enhanced quality of life for all.

At the same time, the planning and design of a safe, reliable and equitable transport system will also encourage men to become less car dependant and give them more sustainable transport mode choices as part of their daily routine.

Key summary points

• There is general concern for climate change, however the link between individual transport behaviours and sustainability is not well understood

• Cost of parking is a strong incentive to reduce car use, whilst the full cost of running a car is often underestimated

• Support practical pathways to reduce car use through car share schemes, ridesharing, or switching to EV

• Women in Dublin are the least likely to use a car, and are most willing to reduce their car usage even further

• School-aged children play a central role in shifting attitudes and behaviours in the family

• Behaviour change requires the full support of society and families

• Beyond Covid-19 flexible working arrangements could influence the distribution of household duties and travel demand

 
 
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