Leading charity calls for better representation of women in transport planning and delivery in the UK

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we have highlighted the need for equal gender representation in transport planning and delivery to help address the low numbers of women travelling actively in the UK.

A new active travel and gender report we've released today shows that women’s journeys around cities are typically shorter than men’s, use different modes of transport and are more likely to involve ‘trip-chaining’ (multi-stop journeys) which tend to be for a balance of child care, work and household responsibilities.

And, whilst women are motivated to travel actively for physical and mental health reasons, worries about their personal safety, convenience (particularly when taking multi-stop trips) and appearance are all barriers to preventing them from cycling and walking.

The ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ report looked at the travel habits and choices of nearly 2,000 women in Glasgow and combined the findings with a literature review of research on women’s travel patterns across Scotland, the UK and Europe. 

The report also found that there is a lack of evidence to show how women participate in creating transport policy and planning in the UK. Currently, transport has the lowest percentage of women in senior posts within the public sector in Scotland, with women representing only 6.25% heads of transport bodies. In addition, the transport sector accounts for only 22% of female workers UK-wide.

“ It is good to see Sustrans are highlighting the links between transport policy and women’s equality, and we hope to see women’s different experience of travel integrated into all of their future work. ”

- Emma Ritch, Executive Director of Engender

Sustrans Scotland’s Evaluation Manager, Suzanne Motherwell, who led the research, said:

“Our research has shown that there are a number of women-specific barriers such as lack of time, complex schedules and fears of personal safety, which stop them from travelling actively more often.

“If we are to get more people walking and cycling, the industry must address the inequalities that exist in transport – at every level – from users right through to planning and policy making.

“By designing and building infrastructure that caters for both genders’ needs, we can help ensure the gap between the levels of women and men cycling is closed, and importantly improve the everyday cycling levels in our cities and towns.”

Katie Hulland, President of Women in Transport, said:

“Less than one-quarter of UK transport workers are women, so we are massively under-represented in the planning and delivery of transport policy, infrastructure and services. We agree a more gender balanced workforce would help the transport sector better address women’s needs as customers and service users.

“As the leading professional network for women in transport, we’re working with the transport industry, parliament, government and beyond, to address women’s under-representation and promote a diverse and inclusive transport workforce.”

The research has also been welcomed by Engender, Scotland’s feminist organisation. Engender has carried out wide-reaching research on women’s representation in decision making and power and has also highlighted issues experienced by women in public spaces and on public transport as part of its recently-published ‘Gender Matters Roadmap’.   

Emma Ritch, Executive Director of Engender, said:

“It is good to see Sustrans are highlighting the links between transport policy and women’s equality, and we hope to see women’s different experience of travel integrated into all of their future work.

“Scotland’s travel systems are not designed around the needs of women, who tend to make shorter and more frequent journeys and are more concerned about their personal safety.

“This obliviousness is perhaps unsurprising given that women are massively underrepresented in transport bodies: only 6.25% of their chief officers are women. Making active travel work for women makes it work better for all.”

Lynda Addison OBE, Chair of the Transport Planning Society, said:

“Gender considerations need to be included at the earliest stages of planning transport and infrastructure, as part of an inclusive planning and transport policy, as well as the design process. While transport planning is a fairly diverse profession, we know more needs to be done and we want more women to choose transport planning careers. That’s why we’re designing a campaign to promote transport planning to a more diverse talent pool. The ambition is for transport planners to more accurately mirror the demographic of service users, so planners can better cater for customers’ needs.” 

In Glasgow, 2% of women chose cycling as a mode of transportation, compared to 16% of men. The figures mirror cycling levels across the UK, with men doing nearly three times as many cycling journeys as women. 

- Ends-

For more information, interviews and photos, contact:

Anna Galandzij, Senior Press Officer at Sustrans


Charlotte Otter, Senior Communications and Public Affairs Officer


07837 572 705

NOTES to Editors

Read ‘Are We Nearly There Yet? – Exploring Gender and Active Travel Report’, publishied by the Scottish Research Programme: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/file_content_type/exploring_gender_and_activetravel_paper_final.pdf

About Sustrans’ Scottish Research Programme

Sustrans is the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle. We connect people and places, create liveable neighbourhoods, transform the school run and deliver a happier, healthier commute. Join us on our journey. www.sustrans.org.uk

The Scottish Research Programme is funded by Transport Scotland and since 2014 has been providing insight and analysis of the investment in active travel so a more nuanced understanding of the effectiveness of interventions for walking and cycling in Scotland could be gained.

About International Women’s Day

International Women's Day, March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress to unite everyone to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Case study

Since moving to Glasgow four years ago, Rebecka Bergh has mostly travelled round the city by bike, as she feels it is a quicker, cheaper and more convenient option for her than walking or taking public transport. 

The 25 year old student, from Sweden, says that bikes were the default mode of transport when growing up. However, Rebecka doesn’t see herself as being a confident cyclist and often feels intimidated by other traffic on the city roads.

She also admits that travelling around by bike limits the kind of clothes she could wear each day, but said she tried not to let her appearance deter her from cycling. “I know that appearance and the way you look is a big issue for some women and from time to time it does bother me.

“It means that I don’t tend to wear skirts or dresses, and if it’s raining for example, I will choose not to wear makeup. However I don’t tend to cycle particularly fast and I have a cap that I wear to protect my hair and eye make-up, so I don’t feel too messy when I arrive at university.” 

Rebecka says that her lack of confidence when on her bike is her biggest issue when travelling around Glasgow. “Drivers don’t tend to think about what it is like for people on bikes going about the city and I’m not very good at being assertive when I’m on my bike on the road. I am not always confident that I know if I am allowed in certain spaces,” she said. 

“So when I feel that cars are getting too close or that they are getting impatient because I am cycling slowly, I don’t have the confidence to mark my space and will often find myself cycling very close to the pavement instead of keeping my distance from it which can be dangerous. 

“I know if I was more assertive on my bike and cycled faster they would respect my space, but then that means that I am more likely to end up hot and bothered when I arrive at my destination.

“Having cycle routes and networks designed with women in mind would make a huge difference to my journey every day. To have paths which are safer and less intimidating to use would make the world of difference and I hope it would encourage more women to travel by bike when possible.”



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