5 ways urban transport could step up a gear for women

metro

(Fabrizio Verrecchia, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lieke Ypma, Innovation strategist & Frieda Bellmann, Strategic designer & Diana Polack, City designer, City of Berlin


Women’s mobility is more multi-modal and intermodal than men’s.

• Understanding these patterns can lead to new ideas and new markets.

• Ideas can be realized in a collaborative manner.

Women travel differently to men. They typically combine unpaid care work with a paid job; people with multiple purposes in life create more multi-modal travel patterns (using multiple forms of transport in general). They perform more inter-modal trips, combining several modes on one journey. Women are more likely to schedule in a stopover (trip-chaining). These kinds of insights can lead to new ideas and new opportunities in the areas of mobility-as-a-service, vehicle design and city design.

In our workshop with 40 female mobility professionals in Berlin last year, we confirmed the facts with user observations. It became clearer what mindset women are in while on the road. Optimizing time by organizing work and social life was commonplace: “I am constantly optimizing my time. For instance, when my son has his sports training at a new location, I scan the surroundings to find out what kind of errands I can run while I wait.” Feeling safe and being safe is an important decision-driver: “Will I go home with others later, or will I be alone?” Keeping timelines is seen as a key objective: “I cannot be late at school, that would disappoint my kid and the teacher would project that on them.” And, of course, always travel in style: “When I use the electric bike to go a meeting, I don’t sweat, so I feel more professional.”

Working with this group of experts, there was a general agreement that we can’t solve deep-rooted problems alone. Collaborations are vital to all mobility industries – be it the car industry, public transport, micro-mobility, city planning, real-estate planning, logistics, etc. Not only collaborations between companies – but also collaborations between operations and management, to encourage a healthy dose of pragmatism. Last but not least, we value participations between users and providers; participative design is a proven tool in the urbanist’s toolbox. If we’re aware of our users’ daily challenges daily, coming up with efficient solutions to their needs comes naturally.

We identified five areas of opportunity relevant to all mobility enterprises:

1. Build platforms

Standard commutes are the exception among our workshop participants. Women engage more often in multi-modal travel, shifting their means of transportation. They want to pick their modes or vehicles to fit their purposes. There is not one perfect new mode of transport. Offerings can be as diverse as people and their purposes. When users are looking for the appropriate mode, the need for a reliable and inclusive platform is evident. Such a platform can be global – think of what Uber is doing when combining taxi, ride-hailing and public transport; or local, like Berlin platform solution Jelbi, a good example of cooperation. The more collaborations between transport providers on a platform, the more valuable it becomes.

If we develop platforms, we are thinking of access rather than of single solutions. Platforms enable single solutions to enlarge their reach, potentially even beyond the city.

2. Change the concept from single-trip to trip-chain

People that pursue multiple purposes in life move from A to B to C to D – a mechanism we call trip-chaining. There are many opportunities for improvements if we consider all the stopovers in between. They could be better integrated into navigation systems, for instance. Cost structures for stopovers on shared modes should be optimized and made more transparent: The Hopperfare in London – unlimited bus and tram journeys within a one-hour period for £1.50 – is an excellent example. Logistics can be improved to solve luggage problems along complex routes, as this Volvo study shows.

Not only should it be easier to schedule in a stopover, but running errands during this time could be better incorporated into transport systems. This could start with

improved curbside management. Running errands would be a lot easier with good availability of short-term parking for all kinds of vehicles, close to destinations people seek to run our errands at. Ikea and the city of Vienna may have worked out how errand-running works. We live in an era where shopping for furniture is something we do when we are on our way to something else; spending a Saturday with the family there seems like yesterday’s experience. We want to be quickly in and out, to be able to arrive in all kinds of transportation, and leave the logistics to someone else. The Ikea store in central Vienna, planned without parking spaces and predicated on home delivery, does just this.

If trip-chaining is the norm, we can improve offerings towards more ease and efficiency in planning and executing multi-stop routes. There is even a chance to improve “stopovers” to such an extent that the total number of routes reduces.

The female mobility experience: a summary
The female mobility experience: a summary
Image: Ypma, Polack, Bellmann

3. Nurture our etiquette in a redistributed space

In our shared street space, we need to constantly evolve our etiquette. While in most countries, the distribution of space is driven by the cities themselves, the way we use this space can be influenced by its citizens and entrepreneurs. We welcome etiquette in onboarding of new users on mobility services such as Bird. The ultra-personal greeting on Uber, calling out first names, gives a nice touch to the urban transport experience. One way of encouraging etiquette between transport users is areas in cities where all signs and lines are removed, such as the shared space at the central station in Amsterdam.

Let’s take ownership! What can be done in your field to nurture our etiquette?

4. Focus on pedestrians

When we leave vehicles behind, be it the car, the metro or the bike, we are all pedestrians. Pedestrians need space and freedom to move – we need to prioritize them. When clearing snow in Sweden, the municipality of Karlskoga found out that they even save money when clearing the streets for pedestrians first, by preventing injuries that would require treatment. Vienna has been exemplary for initiatives such as widening sidewalks and improving crossings. We need to cater pedestrians with destinations that are within reach: In the Vienna Frauen Werkstatt and the Barcelona Superblocks, we can see how amenities are grouped inside residential areas, allowing for more trips by foot.

If we focus on pedestrians, we relieve the strain on the transportation system and improve the quality of living in our cities.

5. Build communities

We’re seeing the advantages of communities in a wide variety of situations. Communities can help when it comes to transporting a cupboard, as well as in organizing family matters, such as picking up neighbours’ kids from school. In situations where physical security is at stake, cohesion can be essential for survival. We see transport-related networks popping up around the world, such as in India and the UK. Networks can also help women to change their habits away from sub-optimal mobility towards exciting new offerings. Adoption of new mobility has traditionally been low among women. Coup, a moped-sharing service, offers driving lessons to lower the threshold for women. The Purple Ride Event in Berlin, on International Women’s Day, aims to put women (back) on their bikes.

Cities

What is the World Economic Forum doing to promote sustainable urban development?

Cities are responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and are home to over half of the world’s population—a number that will grow to two-thirds by 2050. By going greener, cities could contribute more than half of the emissions cuts needed to keep global warming to less than 2°c, which would be in line with the Paris Agreement.

To achieve net-zero urban emissions by 2050, the World Economic Forum is partnering with other stakeholders to drive various initiatives to promote sustainable urban development. Here are just a few:

To learn more about our initiatives to promote zero-carbon cities and to see how you can be part of our efforts to facilitate urban transformation, reach out to us here.

If we bring people together and let users help users, we empower people to more quickly adopt new mobility solutions. Women move differently, and that is OK. Diversity makes the world go round. Women in general have a greater need for flexibility. If we respond to this trend, making alternative mobility modes more reliable, efficient and elegant, we can enhance the quality of life in our cities and beyond.

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