08 September 2005

08.09.05. Women left behind by transport system designed for men

Editor's note: This is one of the consistent themes of all our work in this sector, and picks up as well some of the threads you will see in the gender/transport/ICT discussions, which you can find by clicking the lower left menu of The Commons at http://ecoplan.org. The full report is available at http://www.eoc.org.uk/cseng/research/wp_34_gender_equality_in_transport.pdf.

Women left behind by transport system designed for men

By Alexandra Frean, Social Affairs Correspondent

Source: Times on line. September 08, 2005

NEARLY 40 years ago a chart-topping hit from James Brown lamented: "Man made the cars to take us over the world, Man made the train to carry the heavy load . . . This is a man's world, but it would be nothing without a woman to care."

According to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), he was right: Britain's transport system is failing women. Now the commission is calling for an end to transport "constructed for men by men" because they are denying women access to shops, hospitals, training and work.

Road and train routes that run from the suburbs to town centres are a major problem for women, the report argues, because they tend to favour people with traditional town-centre jobs (more likely to be men), but are of less use to homemakers (more likely to be women) who tend to want to travel within their communities or from suburb to suburb. Not only does this make it difficult for women to travel to and from suburban shops, childcarers and healthcare providers, but these difficulties are compounded by the fact that the most frequent transport services run during the commuter rush hour and not during the middle of the day, when women are more likely to want to use them.

"The greater amount of time that women spend relative to men on caring-related roles, results in women and men travelling by different means, at different times, to different locations over different distances. These differences are not addressed systematically by current transport policy provision," the report said.

Buses and trains that are inaccessible to women with pushchairs are another discriminatory aspect of the transport system, according to the report. So is a lack of security at night, which prevents many women from venturing from their homes after nightfall.

Women living in rural areas can be at a particular disadvantage. If their husband or partner uses the only car to get to and from work, this can leave them virtually stranded at home if there are no accessible public transport systems.

These issues "place a disproportionately heavy burden, in time and money, on women", the report concluded.

Jenny Watson, acting chairwoman of the EOC, said: "Government investment in health care and other services is simply wasted if a lack of public transport means women can't get to hospital appointments or take up training opportunities. It's time for transport planners to respond to the needs of women."

The EOC report has been produced in advance of legislation which from next year will require all public bodies, including those in the transport sector, to look at the different needs of men and women in the way they design and deliver services.

Examples of current good practice include partnerships between Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and the Greater London Authority to promote safer travel at night for women.

Mind The Gap

· 81 per cent hold a driving licence, compared with 61 per cent of women

· 48 per cent of men's trips are made as a car driver, compared with 34 per cent for women

· Women are twice as likely as men to escort their children to and from education and half as likely to commute to work

· Men are twice as likely to travel by rail than women, who are more likely to use the bus


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