About this case study

Women often experience unique barriers to active transport. The present study filled a crucial gap in collecting gender-sensitive data in supporting the City of Sydney to apply a gender lens to urban transport strategies and towards building a more inclusive city. 

The study, produced by the City of Sydney and C40 Cities under the Women4Climate Initiative and supported by Michelin Foundation, investigates how to get more women, who undertake complex trips, to use active transport (walking and cycling) across Greater Sydney by unpacking the key drivers and barriers that are shaping women’s transport choices. 

Walking and cycling are important strategies in climate action as they are “(near) zero emissions modes of transport”. By better understanding women’s unique mobility needs, and addressing the unique barriers they experience, women can be supported and empowered to make greener transport choices.

Close to 900 women were surveyed across three locations of Greater Sydney: in the inner city (Redfern), in south-western Sydney (Liverpool) and in north-western Sydney. 18 interviews were conducted with women of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds, and experiences, and experts from government, academia and community organisations were consulted in the development of the findings and policy recommendations in this report.

By breaking down the perception, safety and access barriers that are stopping women from riding to work, to schools and local businesses, we will create connected active transport infrastructure for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney

The Sydney context

Currently, in Greater Sydney, most journey-to-work trips are by private vehicle and public transport. Sydney has the highest rate of trips by private vehicle in Australia (up to 80%) especially in the west and south-west areas. Walking and cycling represent a very small proportion of journeys to work trips, with 5% of people walking and 1% of people cycling to work in Greater Sydney. Women are more likely than men to have more complex travel patterns. 68% of women surveyed made stops along their everyday journey. Of those who stopped, 67% of stops related to a caring responsibility

Around 15% of carbon emissions in the City of Sydney local area come from transport. To reduce emissions and improve amenities in the city, Sydney is committed to shifting from car-based transport to zero-carbon public transport and active transport while ensuring that this shift does not disadvantage particular groups or exacerbate existing inequalities.

The report highlight the following factors that influence women’s decisions to use active transport:

  • Women’s perceptions shape their transport decisions and behaviours. 
  • Responsibilities shape women’s transport choices.
  • Concerns for climate and the environment were a factor for women choosing active transport over other modes.
  • Women’s perception of safety was found to influence their behaviour and transport choices.
  • Women value health and wellbeing benefits of active transport.
  • Some women choose active transport because it is cost-effective.

To increase the number of women who walk and cycle as part of their everyday journey, the report recommendations included:

  • Challenge perceptions to increase women’s participation and confidence. 
  • Don’t be gender-blind. Apply a gender lens that considers the needs of women when designing active transport infrastructure and transport.
  • Plan for safety beyond street lighting and separated cycleways. 
  • Work hand in hand with public transport. 
  • Build end-of-trip facilities and women will walk and ride. 

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