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Only safety and convenience will boost confidence in public and passenger transport for women and girls: practical steps to take

Follow the recommendations from the UK's Transport Champions and, says Glasgow City Council, set travel and planning in a feminist planning agenda

Juliana O'Rourke
14 November 2022
Anne Shaw (right) and Laura Shoaf
Anne Shaw (right) and Laura Shoaf


The 7th free webinar in the Gender on the Agenda webinar will take place on Wednesday 23 November on the theme of tackling violence against women and girls on transport, and led by Transport Champion Anne Shaw from Transport for West Midlands along with speakers from the Department for Transport, British Transport Police and Liverpool City Region. 

Register for this free webinar here

Back in 2021, Government chose two senior officers from Transport for West Midlands – Laura Shoaf, Chief Executive and Anne Shaw, Executive Director – to lead efforts to tackle violence against women and girls on transport.

Laura and Anne were the UK's first Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champions, part of a wider campaign to tackle violence against women and girls. A set of their recommendations on making the transport network safer for women and girls was published in March 2022 and highlighted some key areas for focus:

  • UK GDP is severely impacted by women and girls not taking up employment or training opportunities due to fears about travel

  • Around 4% of GDP is lost because of this

  • Little thought is given to how women use and perceive public transport despite being the predominant user group

  • More needs to be done to ensure the design of transport services includes appropriate surveillance, lighting, and parking provisions

The work done by the Transport Champions, as has been showcased in the previous six Gender on the Agenda webinars (see the previous episodes here), also stresses that the streets, roads, footpaths and public realm in which travel takes place must also be appealing and safe for women and girls. 

Set travel and planning in a feminist planning agenda, says Glasgow City Council

In Glasgow, a novel motion by Green Councillor Holly Bruce that called for a feminist planning agenda has been accepted by Glasgow City Council; the first in the UK to do so. Bruce argues that: Council agrees that in order to create public spaces that are safe and inclusive for women, and accessible for all members of the community, it is fundamental that women are central to all aspects of planning, public realm design, policy development and budgets.

'Council notes a gender-neutral approach to city development does not work, that women and people of marginalised genders have diverse needs that are not currently reflected in practice and that an intersectional, inclusive and climate-friendly approach is needed.

Council agrees that public places that are better attuned to women's security and practical needs would open up opportunities for women, and could lead to an increased participation in political meetings, and ultimately women's elected representation. It would present job opportunities, and enhance the autonomy of disabled women, women of colour, unpaid carers and lone parents.'

She added: 'Council recognises the main features of a healthy city are aligned with gender-equal cities including walkability, proximity to services, mixed-use environments, a safe public realm and open greenspaces. These factors aren't only important for women, they are key considerations for creating a healthier, more liveable city for all, with positive impacts in terms of physical and mental wellbeing and air quality.'

Glasgow City Council has now instructs the Chief Executive to prepare reports to the appropriate Policy committee(s) that will consider how council policy and practice needs to be adapted to:

  • Adopt a feminist town planning approach within planning policy and the new City Development Plan.

  • Gather intersectional gender-disaggregation of data in all council consultations to ensure specific gender differences in behaviour and needs are fully understood, ensuring that there is a standardised, consistent approach across all consultations undertaken by council departments, committees, working groups, partnerships and ALEOs.

  • Ensure recommendations from the Scottish Government's review into the Public Sector Equality Duty are incorporated at the earliest opportunity.

  • Incorporate gender competence training with Heads of Service and key members of staff across all council services.

  • Begin work on applying a gender budgeting lens to council budgets to ensure that gender perspectives are integrated into all stages of the budget process

The reality of how limiting the fear of travelling in public and on passenger transport has recently been highlighted by yet another damming report. A survey by LA Metro has revealed a drop in the number of female passengers using its buses and trains – with almost 50 percent of those surveyed citing crime, sexual harassment and safety as their main concerns.

The survey of over 12,000 LA Metro customers – taken between March and May of 2022 – found female bus ridership fell from 53 percent to 49 percent and rail ridership dropped from 46 percent to 44 percent, when compared with pre-pandemic figures. According to the survey:

The top five improvements that female rail customers want are: safety from crime, sexual harassment, or racial or ethnic harassment; cleaner trains; reducing homelessness and related issues on trains; cleaner stations, and; more trains arriving on time.  

The top five improvements that female bus customers want are: safety from crime, sexual harassment, or racial or ethnic harassment; more buses arriving on time; more frequent service; less homelessness and related issues on buses, and; cleaner buses.

Join us at this free webinar to hear practical suggestions to improving mobility and boosting opportunity for women and girls.

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