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Saturday , 20 July 2024

Catering to the different needs of women Sustainable Urban Mobility

How do women citizens commute in an urban city? It is crucial to look at the travel pattern and mode choice of women, primarily when nearly half of the population in India is represented by women. Also, women travel distinctively different from their male counterparts. Recently, a research study funded by DULT, Bengaluru, was conducted to understand the issues and challenges faced by urban women while adopting sustainable transport, Focus discussions were also carried out with different groups of women (white collars, marginalised section, students, walking disability group, visually impaired students group, homemakers and entrepreneurs). Dr. Meghna Verma, Associate Professor, Head-Centre for Sustainability, Ramaiah Institute of Management, Bengaluru, highlights some of the findings.

The insights from the discussion have been quite alarming. Both the working middle to high income women groups: white collars and entrepreneurs, find the city transportation services highly inconvenient and thus rely more on their personal vehicles for their daily commutes. The sustainable mode options like public buses and metro services are not adopted for work and personal trips due to poor or no first/last mile connectivity, non-reliable bus services, and incomplete network coverage in the city by the metro services.

Girl students belong to an aspirational society that is created by successful marketing campaigns by the automobile industry. Most of the students are wanting to own and use personal vehicles, specially cars, the very moment they can afford. Home-makers find public transport services extremely inconvenient as the frequency of buses are reduced in non-peak hours, when homemakers perform most of their tasks such as shopping or hospital visits or recreational activities.

Again, due to absence of safe first/last mile connectivity, the elder members in the family accompanied by homemakers find the PT highly inconvenient. The non-availability of safer footpaths often leads to injuries to elderly family members. Their mobility gets either highly restricted or limited to small spaces in and around their homes or they have to be dependent on cabs or personal vehicles.

The three other groups belonged to the marginalised section of women out of which two groups comprise of visually impaired girl students and working women with walking disabilities. Marginalised sections of women have been captive customers of BMTC buses. The long work commute requires access to public amenities like drinking water facilities and toilet access. But discussion insights reveal that absence of these facilities leads to severe health issues in the long run. Metro services are not affordable to them.

Education opportunities, career progression, social life and health are highly compromised by the women with disabilities who also belong to low-income group. For visually impaired women, the absence of safe tactile paths and sound-based information system including signals at junctions make their commute unsafe and inconvenient. They have to rely on others for information while commuting in the city, making them more vulnerable.

There is no information display for women with hearing disabilities, and city public spaces lack the basic ramp facilities to cater the need of women with walking disabilities. The signal timings at the junctions are not sufficient for this section of society. These constraints clearly give a picture of most of the cities in India.

Thus, sustainable mode choice is mainly restricted to captive women commuters due to financial constraints. With time, more women will join workforce, and it is imperative that the city infrastructure and services are built and designed for easy adoption of public transport for women. Campaigns like Atmanirbhar Bharath or Viksit Bharat@2047 can be made successful when equal opportunities are available to all citizens in terms of mobility.

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