On the go: how women travel around our city

City of Sydney and C40 Cities

A case study on active transport across Sydney through a gender lens

There is increasing recognition that men and women travel differently in their everyday journeys around cities.

Cred was jointly commissioned by the City of Sydney and C40 Women4Climate Initiative to help them understand if, how and why women use active transport (walking or cycling) as the primary way they travel in Greater Sydney – and if not, why not? This research is part of a broader move to collect gender-sensitive data in recognition that examining planning through the gender lens provides insights to positively support the diversity of communities. 

In addition to a review of existing research and city policies, Cred Consulting undertook comprehensive primary research. 

As this study was grounded in the power of women to make change, it was important to apply feminist research approaches that acknowledge and value the importance of experience and storytelling.

How we did it

Our approach included:

  • online and intercept surveys across Greater Sydney (889 respondents)
  • a stakeholder workshop where planning, community and sustainability experts were invited to put themselves into women’s shoes and co-develop planning and policy ideas to help make walking and cycling more women-friendly
  • eighteen interviews using the go-along method – a hybrid between observation and interview, which allows researchers to be a part of participants’ everyday practices and behaviours, observing their experiences and interpretations.

We travelled alongside women of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and experiences to learn their stories and better understand how they get from A to B (and in between). This enabled our researchers to gain a depth of understanding that is not possible through quantitative data or big data methods.

Interviews were conducted with women of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and experiences to learn their stories. (Source: Cred).
Cred observed the everyday practices and behaviours of locals like mum Melissa through ‘Go Alongs.’(Source: Cred).
Consultant Kristy Pelekis conducts an intercept survey. (Source: Cred).

The outcome

When built environment professionals and city-makers design a city sensitive to the needs of women, we are designing cities that are more inclusive for many. By understanding what influences the experience of women and the choices they make about how they move around, we are able to be more nuanced in the policies and planning tools that affect this. 

This work culminated in a report outlining the findings of the research and recommendations for cities across Sydney, Australia and globally to enable more women to use active transport as part of their daily journeys, and take action on inequality and sustainable transport. 

While the research took place before COVID-19, the qualitative insights it brings compliment other data-driven studies, bringing a greater depth and richness to the story of active transport. This is now more important than ever as more people are getting on their bikes or feet, and exploring the city’s active transport networks. Local and state governments are also investing in pop-up cycleways!

This initiative was awarded the 2020 Planning Disruptor Award at the Greater Sydney Planning Awards “for understanding how people move around a city; for engaging with Greater Sydney women and following them on their journeys across the city.”

Visit City of Sydney or Women4Climate for more information.