The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on most parts of the world, restricting activities and movement. People have been forced to deal with restrictions on their usual ways of travel, and in many cases on travel altogether. These restrictions have social and economic costs, disrupting global supply chains, social interactions, and access to livelihoods. Despite being necessary (even crucial) in our fight against the virus, we still struggle with these imposed limits to our mobility. But there are groups of people who have always struggled with imposed limits, either restricting them to certain modes and times of the day to travel, or forcing them to stay home. And unlike the current situation of necessity, these restrictions are often based on archaic cultural norms, a perception of a lack of safety, or a sense of control.

Access is gendered, whether it is to land, money, property, rights, or even skills.

Transport is no different. The everyday mobility of women is not determined by simple factors like availability or proximity to transportation but a set of complex issues. This article explores two different concepts around women’s mobility in urban spaces. The first is to look at how women’s mobility needs are unique compared to that of men. The second is to look at how these unique needs shape their daily mobility and access.

84 percent of women’s trips are by walking, cycling, or public transport. Women’s formal workforce participation is low at 14.7 percent. Women are mostly employed in the informal sector in our country, due to which most workplaces that women travel to are not in the central business districts of cities. Women’s trips also tend to be during off-peak hours. Owing to their care work responsibilities, women often leave the house after the men have left for work and before the children come back from school—hours during which the frequency of public transport is lower, thus increasing their waiting time. Hence, transport planning typically caters to the needs of men employed in the formal sector, who travel from periphery to centre in the morning and back in the evening. It does not cater to the travel patterns and needs of a large portion of women, particularly those working in the informal sector.

Read the full article about public transport and women by Sharanya Menon at India Development Review.