In 2015, geographer Yves Raibaud’s book La Ville faite par et pour les hommes (The city made by and for men), studied the unequal use of “communal” areas that make up the city. The examples speak for themselves: women undeniably use the streets and public transport a lot less at night, there is much more investment in amenities mainly used by men, and, more symbolically, streets are mostly named after men. The researcher suggests various ways of working towards greater diversity, because the aim is to educate and promote a more equal sharing of spaces; something that starts in the school playground. Several cities are tackling the issue in a bid to solve the problem.
Cities attentive to equality
In Austria, Vienna is a pioneer. As early as 1992, the city set up an “office for women”. In 1997, a district comprising 357 apartments was completed. This is part of the “women-work-city” project, which takes account of journeys that are predominantly made by women, like accompanying children and the elderly or shopping. A such, the redesigned facilities are more comfortable for women, but ultimately benefit all users. A cr che and a doctor’s surgery are located at the heart of the complex, the communal spaces are particularly well tended and the balconies overlook courtyards where children congregate.
Other similar projects followed, all with the aim of shortening daily travel times and encouraging friendly interaction. The streets are better lit, the parks have open and modular spaces with no enclosed football pitch. Since 2006, Vienna has been setting its budget with a focus on gender equality, ensuring that expenditure and subsidies are of equal benefit to women and men. Following a similar model, Nantes worked on the lighting of pedestrian paths. In several cities, night buses stop on request so that women can be dropped off as close as possible to their destination. In Paris, gender considerations were factored into the redevelopment schemes of seven major squares, begun in 2016. Work carried out with researchers and exploratory walks enabled the planners to identify what was holding women back from appropriating public spaces. Gender issues are gradually being incorporated into the architecture and urban planning curriculum which is a sign that this approach is gaining ground.
“Transport plays a very important role in combating harassment and violence”
What emerges specifically when we look at the relationship between women and public transport?
A.J. : More women use it than men, more of their journeys are local and they make shorter and more complex trips. Transport both reflects and reinforces social inequalities and, for women, inequalities can also take the form of avoidance, e.g. not going to certain places or making sure they are accompanied by another person. Their access to the city, and the activities it offers, is therefore impeded.
How can we make transport more suited to their needs?
A. J. : The realm of transport plays a very important role in combating the harassment and sexual and sexist violence that hinder the mobility of women and gender minorities.
Other factors must also be taken into account to ensure more equal access to the city: their practical experiences when travelling, their geographical and social situation, their daily organization of time, their ways of avoiding mobility.
Can you suggest any actions to improve the situation?
A. J. : An integrated and interdisciplinary approach to gender issues would better combat the persistence of inequalities. Raising awareness among bystanders and providing training for professionals are essential elements to prevent sexual and sexist violence.
In October 2021, the Paris Region Institute published a report outlining women’s fears regarding public transport. The document states that the fear of sexual assault is greater when in confined places, while the fear of harassment is constant throughout the journey. 53% of women have also been afraid several times over the last 12 months when using public transport. RATP Group and le-de-France Mobilités closely monitor this data and implement numerous measures to permit all users to enjoy a safe and pleasant journey, such as setting up the Stand Up training programme with the Fondation des Femmes.
This initiative aims to raise awareness among both men and women when incidents occur in stations by sharing the 5D method – distract, delegate, dialogue, direct and document – which provides the information they need to intervene safely when they witness or experience harassment in public places. In Casablanca, RATP Dev launched WIP (Walk in Peace) in 2019, a solidarity and security app that enables female passengers to travel with a companion and to alert staff members if a problem arises.
“It is an absolute priority to combat harassment and make women feel safe”
What action is RATP Group taking against the harassment and insecurity experienced by women on public transport?
S.C. : This is an absolute priority, and we have a duty to ensure a safe and peaceful journey for all our users. The figures show that 8 out of 10 women have already been victims of harassment or aggression in urban areas and this rises to 9 out of 10 on public transport. To tackle this, we implemented a plan in 2020 and are launching #AvecVous (“With You”) in November 2021, which incorporates action on all these fronts.
What are they?
S.C. : Our priorities are greater prevention, improved responses to alerts and improved support for victims.
On the first point, we know that the presence of our 6,500 staff members in the field is a strength, as they are now all trained in dealing with sexist and sexual violence. In terms of victim support, we are working in partnership with the police and associations to provide victims with psychological support and assistance when filing a complaint. We continually remind them of this too, because it is essential to demonstrate our support. We are well aware that we are part of an ecosystem, which is why we coach our passengers to adopt the right responses by promoting the Stand Up approach in partnership with Ile-de-France Mobilités.