Sustrans has called for more equality in transport planning to help encourage more women to use active travel.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, the walking and cycling charity has published a new report, which shows whilst women are motivated to travel actively for physical and mental health reasons, worries about their personal safety, convenience and appearance are preventing them from more cycling and walking.
The ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ report looked at the travel habits and choices of nearly 2,000 women in Glasgow and combined the findings with other research.
The report also found transport has the lowest percentage of women in senior posts within the public sector in Scotland only 6.25% heads of transport bodies are women.
In addition, the transport sector accounts for only 22% of female workers UK-wide.
‘Our research has shown that there are a number of women-specific barriers such as lack of time, complex schedules and fears of personal safety, which stop them from travelling actively more often,’ said Sustrans Scotland’s evaluation manager, Suzanne Motherwell, who led the research.
‘If we are to get more people walking and cycling, it is essential that we address the inequalities that exist in transport – at every level – from users right through to planning and policy making.’
‘By designing and building infrastructure that caters for both genders’ needs, we can help ensure the gap between the levels of women and men cycling is closed, and importantly improve the everyday cycling levels in our cities and towns.
Katie Hulland, president of Women in Transport, said: ‘Less than one-quarter of UK transport workers are women, so we are massively under-represented in the planning and delivery of transport policy, infrastructure and services. We agree a more gender-balanced workforce would help the transport sector better address women’s needs as customers and service users.’
The report includes a case study based on the experiences of Rebecka Bergh (pictured), who moved to Glasgow four years ago.
The 25 year-old student, from Sweden, says that bikes were the default mode of transport when growing up. However, Rebecka doesn’t see herself as being a confident cyclist and often feels intimidated by other traffic on the city roads.
She also admits that travelling around by bike limits the kind of clothes she could wear each day, but said she tried not to let her appearance deter her from cycling.
‘I know that appearance and the way you look is a big issue for some women and from time to time it does bother me,’ she said.
‘It means that I don’t tend to wear skirts or dresses, and if it’s raining for example, I will choose not to wear makeup. However I don’t tend to cycle particularly fast and I have a cap that I wear to protect my hair and eye make-up, so I don’t feel too messy when I arrive at university.’
Rebecka says that her lack of confidence when on her bike is her biggest issue when travelling around Glasgow.
‘Drivers don’t tend to think about what it is like for people on bikes going about the city and I’m not very good at being assertive when I’m on my bike on the road. I am not always confident that I know if I am allowed in certain spaces,’ she said.
‘So when I feel that cars are getting too close or that they are getting impatient because I am cycling slowly, I don’t have the confidence to mark my space and will often find myself cycling very close to the pavement instead of keeping my distance from it which can be dangerous.
‘I know if I was more assertive on my bike and cycled faster they would respect my space, but then that means that I am more likely to end up hot and bothered when I arrive at my destination.
‘Having cycle routes and networks designed with women in mind would make a huge difference to my journey every day. To have paths which are safer and less intimidating to use would make the world of difference and I hope it would encourage more women to travel by bike when possible.’
To read the full Sustrans report, click here.