Shifting the Male Perspective on City Planning

Urban spaces and transportation system are largely designed and managed by men, but cities are starting to recognize the unique challenges women and children face.

2 minute read

April 3, 2024, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View from back of two women in winter clothing walking down street in European city.

David / Adobe Stock

In a piece in Forbes, Eva Epker argues that “cities that were designed for men’s needs and conveniences. They were not designed for women or even designed by women.”

In general, according to UN Women, almost 9 out of 10 women in cities around the world feel unsafe in public spaces – and, as Dolores Hayden argued in 1980, cities have been built, literally and figuratively, on the idea that men move into town and women stay home.

Pointing to the low number of women in the architecture and planning fields and local governments, Epker writes that “Due to this male dominance and subsequent male bias, women’s needs aren’t represented equally in either in city plans or realities: regardless of whether those women stay at home or work elsewhere.”

Epker uses examples from transportation — women are more likely to walk and have variable schedules to account for household tasks and childcare, among other things — to show how public transit and transportation infrastructure are often not geared to women’s and children’s needs.

Making cities safer and more accessible for women and children doesn’t always require massive change. In Stockholm, Sweden, where women were more likely to be injured on icy sidewalks, the city began prioritizing plowing sidewalks and cycle tracks to make conditions safer for pedestrians — “decreasing the number of accidents by 50% in the process without any extra charge to the municipality.”

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