Gender in the new urban mobility paradigm

Urban public services related to sustainable mobility play an important role in ensuring the welfare of citizens. Different public and private transport infrastructures are used each day and come to be crucial for the functioning of the social ecosystem, as they address the needs derived from social diversity whilst contributing to equal opportunities.

The perspective given to sustainable urban mobility thrives on a new paradigm, which introduces elements that were not considered up to now. Clear examples of this are the importance of environmental sustainability or digitalisation today, whereas traditionally they were not taken into account. Therefore, within the new mobility paradigm, there is a third element that is just as important as the previous ones: the gender perspective.

Gender equality for women and girls is included in the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5), which calls for gender equality and the empowerment of women to be fostered and strengthened transversally in all areas, including urban mobility. This implies not only understanding the differential behaviour patterns in the mobility of women, but also designing mobility systems that are adapted to them.

Differential patterns between genders in urban commutes

As explained by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge , gender is an important differentiator in urban mobility. “It has been proven that women have more complex mobility patterns, as they include more intermodality and, in particular, increased use of public transport and getting around on foot at different times of the day”. This is due to the fact that, on average, more women stay at home than men and when they commute, they make shorter journeys.

These differences are not insignificant, as they explain why women use the new sustainable and smart means of transport more often – for example the micro mobility sharing platforms – in comparison with men, as they provide a level of flexibility that is not offered by traditional methods of transport, such as public transport or private vehicles (OCDE, 2018).

However, even though women require more flexible means of transport, due to the historical division of roles by gender from a social, labour and economic perspective, they continue to be the main users of public transport (European Institute for Gender Equality, 2020).

Safety of women in the mobility sector

The lack of security on transport is a problem that affects all means of transport equally and in which the perception of public transport differs significantly between men and women. Examples expressed in the International Transport Forum Compendium show that a significant number of women from all over the world feel unsafe on public transport and have been victims of some kind of verbal or physical harassment in public spaces.

If cities want to be loyal to their commitments to social justice and increase the use of public transport, the safety of these services must be considered as a priority in order to start to define sustainable urban mobility policies bearing in mind the gender perspective.