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"Buses are female, cars are male"

We continue a series of pages introducing themes that are generally not addressed by mainstream activity on mobility, while their impact is decisive. This one is about the link between gender issues and mobility.

How gender and mobility are connected together ? How does this impact transport users ?

Mobility is an issue that is gendered both ways : on the one hand, mobility determines women's and men's access to participation in society; on the other hand, women's and men's mobility is determined by gender roles and inequalities.

If people's access to mobility is hampered, they will experience difficulties in accessing education, training and the labour market. Mobility enables economic participation. Without a reliable means of transport, they cannot go to the library, participate in leisure activities or meet their friends and family. Mobility encourages social and cultural participation. And lacking mobility, they cannot go to meetings or demonstrations, vote or lead an effective election campaign : mobility allows political participation.

All three types of participation (economic, social, political) are deeply divided along gender lines, not least because of gender inequalities in mobility. Women have less access to private cars and driving licences than men, for reasons of economic inequality and gender stereotypes. In the EU today, 55 % of car users are male, 66 % of non-car users are female (1) : women therefore use more often public transport such as buses, which are not available at all hours and do not reach all destinations.

The same gender inequalities limit their full use of buses, trams and the underground: their fear of crime is much higher than men's and makes women limit their presence on public transport to certain hours and certain routes that are perceived as safe. Due to the unequal distribution of household and care work, they are more often transporting grocery bags, prams and children. For the same reason, their itineraries are less linear and more often interrupted than men's, making women's mobility more complex and time consuming. Because of their longer life expectancy, women are more likely to reach old age and to experience difficulties in accessing public transport for reasons of reduced mobility.

Therefore, a gender-neutral mobility policy is not fair, because it is due to disadvantage women and contribute to their continuing inequality and exclusion. Mobility professionals and activists have an important role to play in enabling women to enjoy their full human rights. We Move wants to provide them with in-depth analysis and guidance towards transport that is safe, accessible and useful for women – and therefore for everyone.

Here are some topics that we want to address to improve gender equality in transportation :

    1. more research on gender in transport (e.g. data collection, analysis)
    2. inclusive decision making in transport (e.g. women's participation in citizens' initiatives, mobility politics and transport management and planning)
    3. more adapted public space and vehicles (e.g. safety, physical accessibility)
    4. service adapted to all needs (e.g. timetables, routes, relation staff-customers)
    5. re-balance employment in transportation (e.g. internal horizontal and vertical gender segregation)
    6. appropriate communication (e.g. informational communication, advertising, branding)

Further reading :


(1) Source : Social Attitudes to Road Traffic Risk in Europe, SARTRE 4 report, for 2012, on http://www.attitudes-roadsafety.eu/