Moving towards closing the gender gaps in urban transport and public space

This week we see in Mumbai India, female traffic signals are being installed to symbolize the importance of gender equality in public space.  We applaud Mumbai municipal corporation for this initiatve and its other work to make public space and transport safer for women and girls. 

Traffic lights can be more than mere traffic guidance tools but also convey symbolic meanings.  These small steps indicate a paradigm shift locally and reveal how good ideas can travel.

This began in New Zealand, notably also the first country in the world to give women the vote.  Wellington’s Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, had installed a traffic light outside town hall depicting the suffragette Kate Sheppard, challenging “a narrow, linear and simplistic view of transport, especially when there are radically different transport patterns between men and women.”

In 2014, Vienna’s Deputy Mayor Maria Vassilakou participated in the Walk21 Sydney conference and was inspired by Wellington’s suffragette traffic sign. This led to the creation of Vienna’s diversity-themed traffic lights that were introduced for the 2015 Life Ball and Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Vienna.  And other cities have followed suit.

We are pleased to share a recent article on “Sexual harassment in public transport in Bogotá” authored by our colleague Lina Marcela Quinones from her PhD.  The article shows that sexual harassment in public transport is widespread in Bogotá and how it intersects with age and class.  Lina writes that a “comprehensive set of policies aimed at preventing and reducing sexual harassment in different spaces associated with public transport must be put in place”.  You can openly access the article until 3 September.

Lina’s work builds on other studies that reveal the extent to which street harassment is impacting women in cities worldwide.  But it has been particularly under-reported in Latin American cities, as work by Heather Allen reveals.  The study “Ella se mueve segura – She moves safely” reports on women’s personal security and public transport in three other Latin American cities.  It presents good practice examples for how to counteract sexual harassment in public transport and directs concrete demands towards specific stakeholder to take action.

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