Women are an integral part of the society. They are the pillars of our society without whom the society will collapse. They have learned to lead, have challenged existing norms of society and have taken a proactive role in changing traditions and rewriting history. Yet they feel out of class. We have spaces where men move freely and are safe, but what about women? For women, safety and mobility are always at stake. Addressing these aspects is important so as to call a city Women Friendly.
Women safety and mobility appears to be related to empowerment, access to opportunities and independence. According to studies there are different travel patterns shown by males and females. Best & Lanzendorf analysed the gender differences in car use and travel patterns. They found out that though there were no significant difference in the number of trips or the total distance travelled but the type of trips and the destinations were different. Women’s trip included more of shopping and child care. Women travel less often and for shorter distances than men. They make shorter journeys, make more use of public transport, make multi stop journeys, travel for purposes other than work and leisure and escort other passengers. Also, unlike men, women prefer jobs which have lesser travelling from their homes and which might have routes with more public transport.
Thus, there are some considerations which must be kept in mind while designing women friendly transport systems. Availability of public transport outside rush hours, physical accessibility of public transport, pink taxis, special license to women for access to restricted traffic zones and reserved parking zones for women, promoting walking and cycling, low floor buses, lifts and ramps, storage space for luggage/strollers/wheel chairs, are the most important aspects. Women employment should be supported in transportation sector. This not only promotes mobility but also bridges the gender gap. Apart from mobility women safety is one issue which needs to be addressed to make the cities “women friendly”. Improved lighting on road, more awareness about how mobiles and related technology can help in emergency situations, safety policies such as no alcohol, encouraging taxi sharing, night taxi services reserved to women should be encouraged .The major reasons which lie in the planning are the dark streets and deserted areas. Mixed land use could indirectly help in solving the issue as it would ensure that the streets are always busy and there is always somebody on the road. The human eyes on the road could also be replaced with CCTVs so that the roads are always under surveillance.
Some of these aspects target safety and mobility simultaneously. Working on these in not just our duty, rather it is the need of the time. Women are equal contributors in development. It is our responsibility to facilitate their contribution. To give them fair chance, and to make them feel equal is the first step towards creating Women Friendly Cities.
School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi