What would a city look like if was designed for women? The idea of “women friendly urban planning” might sound strange, but, the truth is, men and women use public transport, streets and parks in very different ways. City planners have started to examine how these differences should influence the way cities should be designed.

For example, the city of Vienna, Austria (whose population is 52% women) is focusing on designing parts of their city to better serve the needs of women.

This fascinating article explains the situation Vienna faced. Vienna’s city planners conducted a survey on how men and women used public transportation. They discovered that men tend to have simpler transportation needs: they travelled to and from work each day and mainly used parks and open space as recreational places to visit on weekends.

On the other hand, retired women over 60 and housewives who were not working tended to have much more varied needs for public transportation and city amenities. For example, many of these women had to take their children and grandchildren to school, shop on foot and look after elderly parents. Retired women, some using wheelchairs or walkers, had to navigate street crossings and do their errands on foot and by bus.

So how did Vienna respond to these urbanization challenges and how did it attempt to design a women friendly city?

They approached the research about creating women friendly cities very much like the Sixty and Me community works. They asked questions, listened, and took action based on feedback. They collaborated with the community of women in areas of Vienna, and, based on the women’s suggestions and feedback, implemented improvements like adding more lighting, widening sidewalks and building ramps for crossing busy streets with walkers, canes and buggies.

I think it would be great if more city planners took the step of involving the community of people they serve and listening first with an open mind. I love the idea of using communication and openness to define the needs of a community instead of hastily offering solutions that perhaps don’t meet those needs or interests.

Vienna even designed an apartment complex designed for and by women, close to public transport, with lots of courtyards, and with a pharmacy and childcare facilities right on site.

This project in Vienna began as a way to look at how men and women use city space differently. Now it has created a better designed city and brought them together. When women of all ages can feel more comfortable and confident in navigating their city and enjoying the use of public space, everyone’s life is better as a result!

Is your city well designed for women? What things would you ask a city planner or architect to change? What are the best cities for women in your opinion? 

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