Africa, Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Transportation, January 2 2019
The global transport conversation increasingly recognizes that men and women have different mobility patterns, and that this reality should be reflected into the design of transport projects. In general, women engage in more non-work-related travel such as to run household errands and are more likely to travel with children and elders. Therefore, but not exclusively because of that, they travel shorter distances and within a more restricted geographical area; make more (multi-stop) trips, and rely more on public transport. Women also travel at lower speeds and spend a higher percentage of income in transport than men, limiting their access to certain employment areas. There are exceptions, however, as studies have shown that in some cities, like Mumbai, women follow mobility patterns that more closely resemble men’s, making longer trips during peak hours, directly from point to point.
Key variables like affordability, availability, and accessibility play a big part in this phenomenon. But are there other factors shaping women’s decision to travel in the first place? Current evidence on women’s mobility has focused on diagnosing differences in travel behavior or on characteristics of transport systems that affect women and men’s mobility differently. Less attention has been given to individual, social, cultural and relational factors shaping women’s travel behaviors and decisions. The desire to dig deeper on this motivated a forthcoming study on Women’s mobility in LAC cities, prepared under the auspices of the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality.
The study recognizes women shall not be seen as an homogenous group and explores factors shaping women’s mobility in low income contexts in urban Latin America, and how these can impact their access to economic opportunities. The study focuses largely on women’s ability to make choices related to their transportation and in accordance to their preferences—a notion that social scientists often refer to as “agency.” In that context, when looking at constraints to women’s mobility, we consider two dimensions: instrumental aspects (such as affordability and availability of transport options); and less tangible, psychological and sociocultural factors such as aspirations and self-esteem.