Appearance on ZDF Magazin Royale: Why women move differently through our cities

[Read this post in German by switching to the German version of my site]

So I was pretty darn excited to see my work on gender-sensitive urban development picked up by Jan Böhmermann, and even more excited that I actually got to say something about it on his show. In this post, I want to give a little more context to my statement about how women’s higher percentage of care work responsibilities leads to them moving through our cities differently with a few statistics from Germany.

Watch the whole show here (my fifteen seconds of fame are around minute 20):

The Mobility in Germany report helpfully disaggregates mobility data by gender, which allows us to better understand why different genders are out and about, what types of mobility options they are choosing, and how far they travel on average in kilometers.

We know from self-reporting that women tend to engage in “trip-chaining” – that means combining a number of tasks or pathways into one trip – while men tend to travel further but in a more linear way. Especially in cities, women tend to walk, bike or use public transportation (often in combination) in order to make all of these short trips, while men tend much more often to drive alone. This mobility pattern is not gender-dependent: it’s a result of combining care work with paid work. (Which means, when men take over care work, they also trip chain!) Schematically, this looks something like this:

And the statistics absolutely support this. In the following graphic we see the percentage of trips taken for different reasons organized by gender and age group. The blue colors represent trips for work reasons, red is shopping and errands, yellow is free time and green is trips accompanying someone (for example a child or an elderly relative).

What you can clearly see (even if you don’t speak German), is that the reasons why men and women in the 30-39 and 40-49 year age brackets are out and about are vastly different. To summarize:

For women 30-39, 47% of their trips are related to care work (accompanying someone, shopping, errands), while only 29% of their trips are for work reasons. For men in the same age group, it’s almost exactly reversed: 48% of trips are for work and 30% are for care work.

This trend continues into the next age bracket, with women 40-49 taking 45% of trips for care work reasons and only 32% for work reasons, while men 40-49 increase the percentage of their trips taken for work to exactly 50% and continue to take only 30% of their trips for care work.

This vastly affects both how far men and women travel on average and which types of mobility modes they choose.

In the next graphic, we’re looking at the total number of kilometers people travel using different mobility options (known as modes). Light blue is walking, dark blue cycling, red is driving, yellow is as a passenger in a car, and green is with public transportation such as trains and busses.

What we can clearly see is that, starting in the 20-29 year old age bracket, women start traveling fewer kilometers on average, and the difference between the average number of kilometers traveled increases in every age bracket – men travel more and more kilometers the older they get, while women travel fewer and fewer.

We can also see a clear modal split – that means men and women choose different mobility options to get everything done in a day.

We see in particular that in Germany on average, men drive vastly more kilometers than women and are much less likely to be the passenger in a car.

These numbers are not differentiated by settlement type, which means it’s pretty much impossible to talk only about mobility choices of women in cities from this graphic. And of course we know that people in smaller cities and more rural areas are more likely to drive, independent of their gender.

What these statistics tell us is that, independent of where they live, women in Germany, in particular between the ages of 30 and 59, are much more likely to be traveling as a result of care work responsibilities, and that means that they are more likely to have baby carriages, packages and small children with them. This makes a big difference in what women need from mobility offerings, from public transport to bike infrastructure to sharing options.

In order to better meet women’s mobility needs in cities, we need to focus on topics such as accessibility, lighting, bike parking near shops and at public transport stations, and the width, quality and safety of bike paths, to name a few.

Leave a Reply