In our last article called The feminist city, I argued that the cities we live in today are favouring men. It was a glimpse of trying to identify barriers that Flinta* disproportionately and overwhelmingly face in our built environment daily. These barriers do not only create inconveniences but can lead to unmanageable or even dangerous situations which are unnecessary been built into the life of half of the population.
This article will be focussing on initiatives and movements that gives examples of gender-neutral planning, what it looks like and what we can learn from it.
Claiming space in a man-made world
Feminist planning is becoming more and more popular. In 2022 the Glasgow City Council declared feminist urban planning as an official policy. The city Umeå in Sweden has already adopted an equality committee since 1978, making equality a central part of long-term planning. One of the most promising examples can be seen in Barcelona where thanks to feminist cooperatives of sociologists and architects, women’s direct participation in urban planning processes is growing.
There is more to it than changes on the policy level. On a practacal level, different feminist groups experience claiming the space such as grassroot movements like Takebackthestreets, Takebackthenights, the so-called Slutwalks or the pride strikes in India.
Feminist planning and mobility
Feminist city planning also intersects with the growing emphasis on sustainable mobility. By advocating for active transportation modes such as walking and cycling, this approach not only reduces traffic congestion and carbon emissions but also promotes physical and mental well-being. Women, who are more likely to rely on public transportation, benefit from improved transit options and infrastructure that cater to their needs.
That is why cities around the globe have adopted a so-called Pink transportation policy, including Delhi in India, where the government decided to make public transportation completely free for women and girls. This example does not only promote the use of public transport and therefore sustainable urban mobility but also encourages women’s mobility in areas where this is highly restricted, like India.
In Berlin, the district Pankow, has a social democrat feminist leader who is pushing the agenda for feminist planning. For example, one attempt is to evaluate the parts of the city where Flintas do not feel safe. They are analysing what routes they prefer and fight so-called “fear-zones” and make them safer with more lighting.
Furthermore, in their building plan, new houses should not exceed a specific hight as this generates the feeling of having a better “overview” of the streets. Mobility tracking like traffic light crossovers is also high on the agenda to avoid planning for “rush hour” only – when full time workers are done for the day – but also to prioritise afternoon hours like 15 o’clock when most parents pick up their kids to reduce waiting time.
Reduced traffic and Side walks
Sidewalks need more attention. The attempt to renovate our streets and make the pedestrian area wider is benefiting all. For example, strollers and wheelchairs will be easier to move around.
The relatively new area called “Seestadt” in Vienna, Austria which claims to be a good example of gender-neutral planning strategies is designating less spaces for fast traffic, and parking lots. Instead, there are public spaces specifically designed for functionality and accessibility. More benches allow to take a rest, which can be crucial in deciding if people are willing to leaving the house in the first place. Furthermore, Seestadt analysed the most used routes by women and children and decided that during winter these routes would have the highest priority to become safe. That means they will be the first ones in the morning to get snow removed and be well lit at all times.
The opposite of the male represented city
Historically, our streets have been named after famous or half famous men. Composers, artists, scientists, heroes, sometimes even problematic war fighters, teachers, doctors and so on. However, it’s rare that we see an important area or prominent street designated to a woman. Seestadt turned the table. The district managed to name their main streets after important female figures. Hannah Arendt Platz, Simone de Beauvoir Platz, Anna Müller, Ella Lingens and many more show representation that women have always contributed to science, art, history, medicine and so on. Their work was just ignored, forgotten or unacknowledged. Some might think this is not a big issue, however, studies show that representation matters and that is a fact that cannot be denied, even if it’s just the first step towards equality and not the last.
These attempts and strategies are mostly building on including Flinta’s voices directly into the planning process. It is a big task to make cities accessible for everyone and to not only focus on the straight, white, able-bodied male, however an upper-class white woman will experience the city differently than a disabled elderly black one. This is why including as many voices as possible is important.
This approach acknowledges that Flinta’s experiences are varied and diverse. It seeks to create spaces including considerations for economic opportunities, caregiving responsibilities and recreational activities. By prioritizing inclusivity, feminist cities do not only benefit women but also enhance the quality of life for all who calls the city home.
*Flinta = Is an inclusive term for Female, Lesbians, Intersex, Transpeople and Agender.
Written by green guide Julia Proksch
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