The World Bank unveiled a “Toolkit on Enabling Gender Responsive Urban Mobility and Public Spaces in India” on December 8 in an effort to offer suggestions for improving the accessibility of women’s travel needs in Indian cities’ public transportation systems.

The toolkit places a strong emphasis on the necessity of incorporating a gender lens into transportation policies and infrastructure while also offering a number of suggestions for interventions that can help make urban transportation safer overall, but particularly for women. It combines 50 case studies of top initiatives and methods from around the globe with a focus on the Indian context.

According to studies, women are among the biggest users of public transportation in Indian cities, particularly those who belong to lower socioeconomic groups. Their reliance on public transportation is a result of having less discretionary income. Additionally, women’s mobility patterns are distinctive; they frequently travel shorter distances, utilising multiple modes of transportation, and travelling with dependents during “off-peak hours.”

These particular requirements of women are not currently catered for by urban mobility systems. This may increase their costs, inconvenience, and safety concerns when they travel, further burdening an already vulnerable group of people. Even though many women use public transportation on a daily basis out of necessity, the condition of these systems has a significant influence on a number of decisions that women make.

According to studies, women’s access to education and employment opportunities is significantly impacted by the availability of safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation, which has a negative impact on their quality of life. At just 30% in 2019–20, India’s female labour force participation rate ranks among the lowest in the world.

When it comes to using public transportation, women face significant barriers due to a lack of safety and a lack of confidence in the safety of the situation. Some of the difficulties in this regard include a lack of adequate street lighting, the lack of dependable last-mile transportation, and long wait times at outlying bus stops.

Importantly, in addition to actually being safe, public transportation infrastructure needs to be seen as safe, as it is perception that influences decisions to use such transportation. A vicious cycle is created when safety concerns discourage women from using public transportation: unsafe transportation discourages women from travelling, which discourages them from being in public places, which makes those places even more dangerous.

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