9 out of 10 people today still have prejudices against women. That means yes…? Exactly! Women are also prejudiced against women. They support the patriarchy that we want to overcome together. So I’m not sure if the term „World Women’s Day“ is sufficient. On the one hand, it simplifies the conflicts contained in patriarchy to that between men and women, on the other hand I doubt that this one day will bring about a clearly different awareness. Because: Men suffer under patriarchy and women raise boys within the framework of patriarchy. And thus reproduce problems, although we have been celebrating this holiday for decades. I would like to go into these problems in more detail in my field of expertise, the change in mobility today. And yes: I take #Weltfrauentag as an occasion to do so. Also, to name some of the blind spots in the construction of mobility. For what is named is less invisible.
First of all: I am proud. Having been working for 20 years, I have been noticing continuous movement for some time now in terms of making women visible in my industry and beyond. The exciting thing about it? It is mainly women who make this visibility possible. #justsayin‘. So I’m especially happy that FemaleOneZero (founded by Natasche Zejlko) counts me among the „40 OVER 40: GERMANY’S MOST INSPIRING WOMEN“, and that the Tagesspiegel.Background (significantly influenced by Jana Kugoth) chose me among the 20 women who shape mobility. Above all, I am proud to be in the company of women who impress me greatly in these two lists, which were compiled for International Women’s Day. But you know what would impress me even more? If more attention were paid to women’s mobility needs. Because THAT would really move us as a society forward in terms of the shift in transportation. Nevertheless, female mobility (and that of other groups) is still „the other“ because it is not male. Consciously and unconsciously there is still far too much focus on male needs – even supposedly „gender-neutral“ is male-oriented, because we are used to this view dominating. Not only, but also in mobility, which is to become more sustainable and attractive in the future. This must change quickly. I am happy to explain why I see it that way.
1. the starting point: automobility is male is dominant mobility
Significantly more women than men use public transport, bicycles and walk. If a household owns a car, it is usually used by a man alone. In this respect, conservative countries are no different from progressive countries like the Scandinavian ones. Nevertheless, it is women who continue to do three-quarters of the unpaid care work, i.e. taking children to school, caring for the elderly and doing the shopping. Yes, that is changing – but not by a long shot, as statistics show – as all progressive people would like. We would have, wouldn’t we? Because it is particularly noticeable in dual-earner households that women do twice as much as men on their way to work. So many of these routes are in the public sector. Plus: eleven million people in Germany live without a car. This is also a size that should not be neglected. Have the cycle paths and public transport been adapted to the specific needs? No. Examples from Sweden are often quoted, where surveys have shown that in icy conditions, it was decided to clear the footpaths first and then the roads. This saved millions of euros in lost earnings and medical costs. Why? Because it was mainly working women who had accidents on foot with their children. Before that, this type of accident – although it had existed for years – was under one of the blind spots I would like to address. Probably because the men who planned the accident did not have this mobility in mind.
2. can an industry that has less than 20 percent female managers „all“ think along with them?
Okay, the answer is a rhetorical one: No, it cannot. Nevertheless, in the Ministry of Transport under Andreas Scheuer, the next two levels are white and male – and also in a similar age and education cohort – of State Secretary Tamara Zieschang, appointed until the end of 2019. And this brings us to the next fact: Being a woman is never a good qualification in itself. Neither is being a man. But: The lack of female expertise is. At present, mobility „is a man’s world“. And that can’t work out well in the long run, because statistics show that more than fifty percent of all people are female. But why do they hardly play a role in the current orientation of mobility?
Why is there an enthusiasm for technology that does not include the customer? Why are women not asked, but male mobility behaviour is continued as standard? How intelligent can artificial intelligence become if we train it incorrectly on the basis of these preconditions? I have just cancelled two events and wrote to the inviting people that I will no longer be attending events with homogenous panels. It seems that we need a boycott here as well, because meanwhile enough women are visible and the topic #allmalepanel is set, so that it is still acceptable that our conferences remain buddies. We need discourse, not unity that does not lead to action.
3. we need chains of paths instead of „stabbing traffic“ for equality
I was a guest in Bavaria. Which in itself is difficult for a North German woman. But what was even more difficult: a gentleman from IG Metall explained that „all this multimodality“ was after all reserved for women. The man himself was engaged in rush-hour traffic – to work in the morning and back in the evening, in his own car. One can smile at this point or keep the laughter in one’s throat, because with this backward-looking attitude the gentleman is still right today. Women make more and shorter journeys at different times because, despite all attempts to maintain equal relationships, they still have the largest share of „care work“. In order to carry out their daily tasks, they use public transport much more often than men and walk more. The problem here is that their unpaid work is invisible, as it is divided into categories such as leisure time, accompanying and doing things. And so it is not measured as „work“, let alone recognised.
The term „rush hour“ refers to the classic commuter:in the morning to work and in the afternoon back to work. This refers to paid work – but not to unpaid work, which creates further distances for women. This in itself puts the system in an awkward position, because it is concerned with the standard of gainful employment – and only this. And thus all further ways, which also take place daily, are neglected, although they are of great importance for our functioning society. And here, too, monetary details play an important role, because as women’s income increases, the differences in travel behaviour between men and women diminish. Studies by the World Bank show that three quarters of the funds allocated to transport were still being used to expand roads until ten years ago. Another sign of the neglect of non-motorised mobility. So what does this mean for the „new mobility“, which above all wants to make people independent of privately owned cars?
4. does male mobility know the meaning of „safety“?
And by this I do not only mean the safety of women who want to move freely in public spaces, but also the safety of those who drive the vehicles. The figures for #notmobility Awareness Week are frightening. How can it be that a professional environment is so insecure for women? Does this fact also explain the lack of skilled workers in this area? Has data been collected on a nationwide basis in order to take action?
Why do offers like Google Maps know the fastest but not the safest way? I think it is not least because men do not have to concern themselves with priority A with the safety of paths. Women, on the other hand, are statistically at higher risk of becoming victims of crime and violence. And, of course, this relates to public space and therefore to the use of local transport services. Fix the system – not the women. This saying has meaning everywhere, including in the design of sustainable, barrier-free, safe public transport.
In some cities, over 90% of women have experienced sexual harassment on public transport. Of course, this leads to a restriction in the use of public transport and thus to a reduction in the quality of life, access to education, culture and leisure opportunities for women. Especially when there is no car in the household. Women tend to prefer door-to-door and car-sharing services in order to arrive safely at home. After all, it is precisely the journey from public transport to their own front door that is perceived as unsafe and dangerous. In some US cities, women have replaced expensive taxi rides with e-scooter rides because they felt safer on them than on foot. Should we consider this when planning future sustainable mobility?
Enrique Peñalosa, the mayor of Bogotá, agrees with me: „A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It is a place where the rich use public transportation.“ But that also means taking security concerns seriously instead of smiling mildly at them.
And above all, it means taking seriously the fact that while men may feel safe with technical details such as surveillance cameras and emergency call buttons, women prefer to have staff to whom they can turn directly in the event of harassment. Because let’s face it: what use is recorded harassment if it happens and initially remains unprosecuted?
5. does male mobility know the „handicap“ caused by prams and bad pavements?
I only have to go outside my door to mourn the unspeakable „quality“ of many sidewalks in Hamburg. Highly parked sidewalk slabs make it almost impossible for people with prams and children with walking wheels to use the pavement safely. Ankle-deep puddles, which remain even days after the rainfall, turn the footpath into a slalom. We put all the signs and furniture we need on the path, not on the road. Traffic lights, coffee chairs, garbage cans. This additionally restricts the space that everyone on the other side of the street shares.
E-scooters further exacerbate the problem, because cities have not agreed with the providers:indoors on installation areas, but have simply dumped the new means of transport into the urban space. If stops have elevators, people with prams often move so slowly to their train that three lanes pass through before reaching it. Studies show that routes with small children or prams take up to four times as long because they are not designed for this target group. The same applies to wheelchairs and people in wheelchairs. We currently immobilize them far too often. Plus: children under the age of nine are driven half of the way by car, which affects their cognitive development. That too should change. Contrary to all media statements, the dominance of cars from the age of the driving licence onwards is still unbroken. Here, too, the lack of alternatives certainly plays a role.
6. Commuter mobility dominates public transport networks
My vision is to make people free to choose. If they want to do without the car and thus free up space, air and resources for themselves and others, they should be offered good alternatives. But even when it comes to traffic planning, almost every route network is currently still geared towards commuters: internal traffic – and thus again marginalises women who have to travel different distances every day. The routes of male and female mobility do not differ that much, but the way they are designed and, in the case of women, generated from several partial routes, requires completely different approaches. You know how it is: route networks are often structured in a star shape, and as commuters we want to get from A to B and then back quickly. Care work, however, is not organised in this way. It would also require „circular relationships“ to get to neighbouring districts. In the traditionally poorly developed public transportation networks of the USA, it turned out that trips with BUTTON were twice as fast as the same routes in public transportation. This, however, cannot be the solution, as here the private car is only replaced by a rented one with driver:in and thus the urban space is not relieved. Another No Go: Used daily, these offers are too expensive. And the gender pay gap averages 37.8 percent worldwide. So why not organise UBER from public funds? Ridepooling on-demand can even be made barrier-free by the respective equipment of the vehicles – at the moment the ride is ordered.
7. and this brings us to one of my favourite topics: Who owns the city?
In our cities, the use of space and urban design are no longer human-centered, but are instead tailored to the car. Traffic and urban planning are separated from each other, which in the past inevitably led to inefficient use of resources and environmental damage. Cities in which there is hardly any pedestrian infrastructure to protect women and their children, cities in which bicycle paths are blocked by parked cars, we have to overcome this spatial design if we want to create attractive cities for everyone. Especially for those who live there. At the moment, however, our urban planning is mainly aimed at those who want to travel quickly through our cities. This is where space and deceleration are needed. Urgently.
8. sharing must become caring
E-scooters, rental bikes, public transport – theoretically everything is accessible, also for the mobility of educating or caring working women. Not visible are above all the „private“ ways, which are nevertheless part of women’s work and also cause journeys. But of course an e-scooter is not suitable for taking children with you and a rental bike rarely offers the possibility to transport shopping by bike – unless a woman equips herself and takes along appropriate luggage. And even then it becomes difficult if on a stage you still have to take your child and kindergarten bag with you. Here, sharing services must be more comprehensively equipped in order to be able to compete with the competition from cars. The advantage: if you think about these requirements, you are helping everyone and not just a certain target group. Ticket systems should also be thought of in a more uniform and comprehensive way so that you don’t have to pay for each trip individually – which very quickly becomes too expensive.
Conclusion: The inclusion of women in the planning process is an important element, as they can disclose their travel needs.
And last but not least, it is essential to increase the proportion of women working in the transport sector. Jobs must be made more attractive to women, more women must be involved in decision-making and recruitment in order to create a transport sector that is designed for EVERYONE. Countries such as Canada or Denmark have long since made women the yardstick, especially for good cycling infrastructure. If there are significantly fewer women cyclists on the road, this is a good indicator that the infrastructure is not good. Because: it does not get 50 percent of the population on the bike. It’s quite simple. The same applies to security at stations, where lounges should not be guarded until after the last train has arrived, but often they are then closed or without staff. Security should be worth something to us, especially if we want to turn the tide together.