Female Mobility — a Longread

Ideas that benefit all

Bellmann, Polack, Ypma
Female Mobility


Authors: Frieda Bellmann, Diana Polack, Lieke Ypma
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Transportation development has long been driven by technical descriptions, often car-centric and male-dominated. Has this resulted in a system that has overlooked women’s perspectives? Women have different travel patterns compared to men. What are female mobility needs? We investigated the concept of female mobility from the end-user perspective. We’ve gained insights from over 40 women using a workshop format around use cases to define areas of attention that inspire innovation.

Photo: Sophie Bellmann

8:00 am on a hot summer morning …

Workshop on Ideas

… and 40 female professionals from the fields of mobility and city design are gathered at White Octopus in Berlin. We, the authors, in cooperation with the Women-in-Mobility Network, are about to facilitate a four-hour insights & ideation workshop. The majority of participants are local professionals from startups, NGOs, large corporations and consultancies. Berlin, compared to other major European cities, has an elaborate public transport system and, at the same time, a dominant car orientation. The city finds itself in a growth process. The field of mobility is quickly changing to become digital, sustainable and social. We are frequently faced — both as users and professionals — with new modes and formats of mobility.

Earlier this year, Caroline Criado Perez described how a large number of systems traditionally operate with a bias towards men; the mobility system being one of them. We decided to take the facts composed in Perez’s Book, Invisible Women, and combine them with qualitative insights from our network. Our goal is to nurture a refreshing perspective that inspires all of us to work towards a mobility ecosystem that is diverse and inclusive.

In user-centric design, we design offerings based on user needs. When we truly empathize with our objects of study, we understand their emotional, functional and social needs. This is an enlightening moment; it literally flips our world upside down. This creates refreshing perspectives. In the workshop, we are both users and professionals. Phrasing out individual experiences and confirming patterns helps to (re)emphasize the topics that play a role in female mobility.

Globally, women travel differently

Literature shows female patterns, needs and behaviors

If we acknowledge that women, in general, fulfill different social roles in society and that these roles come with different behaviors and duties, we find that women have different mobility needs. Studies demonstrate that women do most of the unpaid care work and combine it with their paid job. Hence, they experience a greater time pressure in their daily life. They also are more likely to travel encumbered — with kids or elderly, luggage or groceries. Women tend to have less money for a variety of different reasons. We still experience an adjusted gender pay gap. Women also spend more of their time on unpaid care work and only work partially in paid jobs, and tend to work in lower paid industries. To compensate, they often rely on means of transport alternative to the car, and are more likely to trip-chain to fit in all stops that need to be done in one stretch of their travels. Their mobility pattern is, therefore, often more complicated and within a smaller spatial range. While spending the same amount of time on the road, women travel fewer kilometers.

Apart from socially constructed roles, let’s not forget that women are more vulnerable due to their physical condition. This affects which routes or means of transportation many women choose; for instance, trying to be safe when out alone at night. Women are also more careful when in traffic, exercising a more cautious approach and exhibiting less need for speed.

We’ve come to accept the normal state of feeling unsafe at night, and learnt to work around it.

Use case I — traveling alone at night

The choice of transport at night is driven by the users’ feeling of physical safety. Studies show that women feel more unsafe than men on Berlin’s public transport, especially at night (Büch, Mint Conference 2019). What can be done?

Women are said to be more careful and cautious when navigating traffic. We know, that most fatal car accidents are caused by men — which supports the impression that women drive more safely. Women are also more likely to take on the household planning. Our female workshop participants unraveled the detailed planning women often undertake before a night out. The questions they ask themselves are: How do I get there and back? How safe is the location and the surroundings? Is it possible to get home from there? With which means of transport do I feel safe on the route at night? Will I go home with others later, or will I be alone? Do I want to have a drink and have to leave my car or bicycle at home? How much money do I want to spend on my transportation? Is the last mile of the night reasonable and the road illuminated? What items do I have with me that are valuable? What will the weather be like later? Is my phone charged? How can I defend myself in case of an attack?

The route towards the event location therefore differs from the way back in several ways. Interesting are the activities that take place on both routes. On the way there, e.g. on the first mile to the train station, our participants do things such as making telephone calls to take care of various errands. At night on the way back, our users make phone calls too, but for the sole reason to feel safer. We have spoken to women who pretend to make a phone call when they feel they are being followed.

Many women tell us that the last mile is most challenging. Streets may be poorly lit and empty. Some women take a detour to walk on busier and wider streets, and to avoid parks. Others rustle with their bunch of keys so that the potential attacker thinks they live in that area and the neighbors watch out. Another participant holds the keychain as a weapon in her fist and lets the keys stick out between her fingers, or even carry a pepper spray can. On that last mile, everything has to go quickly. “But don’t run too fast, otherwise you’ll look weak and draw attention to yourself,”, one of the participants told us. Then finally back in their hallway, the door is pushed into the lock from the inside to make sure no one can follow. We spoke to a woman who would look down from her balcony once home to see if anyone had followed her. And we spoke to those who immediately write a message to friends or family from their cell phones to inform them that they have arrived home safely.

In the subway, women from our workshop are looking for safe islands. They try to avoid waiting too long in the subway station downstairs. And if they have to, they like to join groups that look trustworthy. Another trick women employ is to alight the first wagon when the subway arrives so that they can knock on the driver’s door if necessary. Some of them check the passengers seated in the incoming train to assess how trustworthy those inside look and quickly decide which wagon to enter. If they pretend to (or actually do) listen to music with headphones, they feel they are less likely to be chatted up. “When you walk home, it is better to switch the music off, because otherwise you can’t hear the sounds of footsteps behind you.”

What would be a good solution for the many pain points that women encounter on public transport, especially at night? Our participants brainstormed a digital bodyguard, street lights with motion sensors, monitored waiting rooms for women at underground stations, a music player that tracks your location while listening to music and stops when you turn off the music upon arrival home — just to make sure you don’t continue to share your location all night long. Our participants specify a heat-map feature that could be integrated in a widely used mobility app, or function as a standalone. In this feature, women help each other to feel more safe. By individual ratings, a kind of heat map is created by the community, which displays areas that should be avoided, and why. In addition, tips and hacks can be exchanged. The app shall also link its users in a train when getting home so that they can contact each other in risky situations, or call for help.

When the women told us their stories we recognized similar behavioral patterns. The participants, including ourselves, have accepted the normal state of feeling unsafe at night — and with good hacks and work-arounds learned to deal with it. Fear of physical aggression is an essential driver of mobility behaviors. Creating a platform to connect people who feel anxiety and collect relevant data is an opportunity. Take it!

We handle toddlers, strollers, bags, and all we want is arrive in-time and be kind.

Use Case II — Combining family care and a paid job

Despite the fact that a lot of modern men take responsibilities in family life, 75% of the world’s unpaid care work is done by women. The accompanying mobility patterns resulting from the combination of family care and a paid job is considered a typical female mobility case.

Photo: Sophie Bellmann

We found many women combine unpaid care work with their paid job, especially with children. Being under time pressure is natural. Time pressure is felt not only in the morning, when dropping off the kids at school to go to work, but also when returning home, as pickup slots are set. One lady shared with us her habit: “I am constantly optimizing my time. For instance, when my son has his sports training at a new location, I scan the surroundings to find out what kind of errands I can run while I wait.” We found women who became backpack planning experts. There are always three bags: the professional one, the kid’s one, and the one for groceries: “I bought a bigger backpack, so that I can fit the kids one in mine when we walk home.” And when they are in traffic, they watch the kids’ safety as well as their own. “I feel like I am thinking for all road users, and try to predict their behavior to increase safety for all.” One participant complained that it is very difficult to bike with a child, pointing out that the street layouts are rather made for single cyclists than for an adult plus kid(s), and regulations hardly support adult-with-kids combinations.

For our participants, trip-chaining is second nature. There is a lot of room for improvement when stopping along the way. This is regardless of which mode is chosen — micro mobility or car, shared, private or public, and especially for autonomous modes in the future. Shared services (such as DriveNow, Tier, Donkey) are considered a solid option for optimizing logistics, but we were told that it is too expensive for everyday use. Cost structures for parking a vehicle while running an errand are unclear, and shopping while usage charges are increasing by the minute is a stressful experience. So, it is not always clear what the cost for a stop is. Ending the rental before the errand, and renting a new shared vehicle after the errand, is not an option because the risk of losing the vehicle to another user is too high. Without a vehicle, and with a bag of groceries and a laptop, in the light of trip-chaining, this may result in being late to pickup the kids.

Mothers with toddlers don’t shy away from carrying their stroller down the metro stairs, avoiding often dirty and temperamental elevators. They continue to ride bikes that were never designed to carry kids — only with a greater time pressure in order to balance work and children time. One participant switches from the family’s cargo bike to her racing bike because she needed and loved the speed. The racer provides a feeling of self-determination. Simply put, the women we came to know are determined not to lose their (mobility) independence.

Moving away from mothers, we also covered care for elderly, both in cities and rural areas. Transportation can become a time-consuming entry on the schedule when loved ones lose their ability to move independently. Systems that are difficult to access affect the user’s independency. We won’t write an article about design for the elderly, but enhancing systems for the elderly to stay independent will have an effect on those who otherwise would have to leave work early to pick up their aunt to take her to her appointment, for example. If people’s mental and physical abilities decrease, it may become challenging to use many new mobility services that are otherwise intended for use by all citizens. We would like to inspire the industry to assess how fail-safe their system is for those who are dealing with memory failure, or who are visually, aurally or bodily impaired, or for those who are digitally not so well connected. It will benefit those who combine their daily job with caring for the elderly.

Ideas brainstormed under this use case spread all the way from inflatable child-airbags for shared cars and shared rides, eliminating the need of a child seat, to cooled lockers for storing groceries in public space, to enhance logistics. Participants thought of filters in our mobility apps that allow users to search which mode is recommended with kids, or with heavy bags, or with large items to transport. Participants also wrote up a shared ride service that is certified to deal with the elderly, both from a physical perspective as on a social level. We want to know which bus drivers are sensible, and we want stairs for slow or fast traffic at the subways.

Concluding, we find an overarching mindset: if on the road, taking care of children and the elderly, or organizing the care work, we want to arrive in-time, and be kind: kind to our loved ones who travel with us, and kind to other people who form part of the traffic. A system that is reliable is crucial in this perspective. With all obligations, women are still entitled to arrive on time; no matter what, the show must go on. Both objectives, being in time and kind, create an interesting field of tension where ideas can sprout.

How a dog can train our empathy.

Use Case III — Including dog mobility in daily life

Some of our workshop participants grouped around the caregiving of their dogs. Taking the needs of a dog seriously goes way beyond walkies. A dog is seen as a true companion and sometimes a full family member: “I am constantly on the outlook for locations that are dog-friendly, like shops, sports clubs, hotels, work environments.” Adapting to the dog’s needs may go far: “My husband and I have adapted our working conditions. I have found a dog-friendly workplace, he can frequently work from home.” When it comes to mobility they develop specific mobility routines because many restrictions are applied to dogs in transport, which may make it more demanding to get around than with children. Rentals and shared vehicles usually do not allow dogs, or are not made for them.

Preparations to getting around are heavy on planning — what means of transportation are suitable, and which errands need to be run throughout the day? Ideas discussed range from more dog-friendly green spaces and spacious pedestrian areas to reducing conflicts between user groups, mobility tickets for dogs, and adaptations in communicating rental and sharing offers outlining whether dogs are allowed, and what equipment is available. Equipment thought of include basket, bike leash, seat belt, and backpack. Subway carriages are thought of to accommodate „bulky items“ more easily, including dogs, buggies, walkers, pedal-scooters, and bikes, with no seats at all. The participants decided to further brainstorm an app called “Dog Mobility”, which connects information on mobility services, suitable routes with enough space so the dog can run alongside the bike, and dog-friendly destinations to make it easier to get around together.

Even though dog mobility may sound like a niche use case, we were delighted by the ideas that sprouted around the topic. It is typical to train your empathy. Why not perform a dog-audit on your product?

We want to get efficient and green from A to B — and look good at the same time.

Use case IV — Moving between business meetings downtown

In our 4th use case, we look at dealing with the scenario in which several meetings are distributed across the city.

Often these meetings are in places you do not know. So what does this mean for the planning process? Various factors influence the choice of the right means of transport for women. Most of those factors equal the perspective of men. Where are the venues located? What is the fastest and most comfortable connection? What will the weather look like? Can I park there? How far is the walk from the parking lot to the venue?

We must consider pros and cons of open vs closed vehicles, from small vs large vehicles, from private vs public vehicles. Riding a bicycle involves the risk of ruining your business dress, arriving totally sweaty or destroying your hairstyle. “With the Hövding airbag helmet, I keep my hairstyle”, says one participant. It looks like a collar, and inflates into a helmet airbag as soon as the sensor registers that the user is experiencing an abnormal movement, such as an abrupt fall or crash. “I feel I have to justify the high price of the helmet. My purchase decision is perceived as more reasonable when I present the fact that the helmet is eight times safer than a normal helmet.”

Style is a purchase driver that makes an entire marketing industry go round. Do I dress adequately for riding my bike, or for business? Do I need rain protection? Where can I store it upon arrival? We spoke to a woman who would like a mirror on the bicycle stands in front of the office because when taking off her helmet she wants to check if she looks alright. Others rent a motorized vehicle as a Coup scooter or a Jump e-bike to arrive in a relaxed and sweat-free state. Don’t underestimate style as a driver when creating new mobility!

Some women in business experience a tension between status and impact. Their appearance is crucial, yet they also care for their impact on the environment. Hence, a shared e-scooter might create a young and urban appearance, and riding a bike might appear sporty and agile. The bicycle has a positive sustainability impact, the e-scooter less so. If the bicycle is of a high-priced brand, such as VanMoof, the connoisseurs among the business partners might recognize it. Of course, there are still environments where an expensive car is a must-have as a status symbol for a person in a high management position, female or male. But we hear more often that driving a car to a business meeting is seen as less en vogue, especially in modern urban social backgrounds.

Females who are under high time pressure use their journey to business meetings as preparation time: an advantage of traveling by subway is that our participants can read emails, check out the document for the morning stand-up or organize their private life. Commute time in a car is often used for phone calls. Having your own driver means you can actually work on the way to the office. A car brings the advantage of transporting large items for the meeting, or allows you to store objects in a safe place. We talked to women who store their dinner dress permanently in the car for a spontaneous event. Taxis are seen as a luxury door-to-door solution, and still considered a treat, even if some participants are highly irritated by smells, radio noise and aggressive driving styles of some taxi drivers. Others don’t want to conduct important or confidential business calls when a taxi driver may be listening.

Photo: Sophie Bellmann

Going to unknown places by bike holds the pain point of navigation. Good navigation means reliably arriving on time. How can the phone be attached to the (shared) bike? What to do with the phone in wet weather? Many have their phone at hand in their pockets and look up Googlemaps at every red traffic light. This results in hasty and risky situations and sometimes taking a wrong turn. A navigation solution is ideated, inspired by after-market products like Smart Halo. Participants picture an integrated handlebar that works both like an indicator showing where the driver is going and a navigation communicating the right way to the user so that the mobile phone can remain in the pocket. A GPS tracking in the product promises that the bicycle is always traceable and therefore theft-proof.

In conclusion, these are the main tensions when attending several business meetings downtown: style versus safety, environmental impact versus status, being prepared even if this means choosing the slower or less comfortable mode and reliability of on-time arrival.

Opportunities inspired by female mobility

Areas of attention relevant to all mobility industries

Our deep dive into how females move, gives us an understanding of the concept of female mobility. Female mobility consists of shorter efficient multi-stop trips, sometimes inter-modal, definitely multi-modal and not reliant on the car per se. It features typical female needs, such as encumbered traveling, and the need for reliable, efficient and elegant solutions.

For some participants, the empathetic approach working on use cases is totally new, and they are delighted by the new perspective transforming their view on anonymous streams of traffic into seeing individuals who move through town. Participants who are trained in innovation and design are eager to take a next step. After the inspiring workshop has ended, the three authors have distilled four areas of opportunity relevant across mobility industries, and a recommendation regarding the way we work.

Change the concept from single-trip to trip-chain.

Opportunity I

We found that many women carry out trip-chaining and that they use their daily routes for organization. Opportunities to rethink solutions for better trip-chaining are countless. Instead of only thinking in terms of how to get from one place to another as fast as possible, try thinking in multiple destinations along the route and in connections throughout the day.

Our workshop showed us that creating an extra stop along the route is always a hassle. Multi-stop routes are cumbersome, regardless of the mode of transport, be it the private car, public transport, shared vehicle, autonomous ride or bicycle: one has to exit the flow of traffic, find a parking (also when riding a bike), pay the parking charge, lock the vehicle, end the trip or continue on the same trip. And after that, head off to the next stop: dealing with unreliable services, enter the vehicle, find a suitable space for you, your bag and family, friends, dog.

We don’t know enough about trip-chaining. What are the most common destinations included in a trip-chain? Are some destinations always integrated in a trip-chain? What does that mean for parking?

Each mode has its own focal point. When traveling by shared vehicle, it is cumbersome to prepare for reserving the vehicle so that the vehicle is still there and in good shape upon returning. When parking and holding a shared vehicle, it is difficult to get cost-transparency. When traveling by car, navigation systems rarely facilitate for multiple stops. Getting in and out of the vehicle is a topic for optimization — imagine bringing a delicate cake in-and-out a car. Furthermore, vehicle design could be more user-oriented, both for private vehicles and shared or public transport. Imagine bringing flowers on an e-scooter — let’s tackle issues like space for luggage and bulky items. Sometimes, complimentary offerings may do the trick — such as providing backpacks for improved trip-chaining.

Many city layouts have incorporated a radial ring system with hierarchical structures connecting the center and the urban fringe. Those layouts better accommodate the commuter mode — meaning going into the city and out again. Optimizing trip-chaining would mean on the one hand catering better for zig-zag mobility, such as offering attractive rates just like the hopper fare, and billing services could combine public transport with new mobility solutions.

Also, assigning cost of transportation to work or family business is a burden when trips become more complex. We are thinking particularly of Shuttel in the Netherlands, making it a simple swipe action to assign trips to either private or professional use.

We need to improve vehicles, pricing structures, pricing transparency, infrastructure for arrival and departure, infrastructure for short term parking, entire layouts around much-frequented destinations, navigation software, and planning software. With a changed perspective towards trip-chaining, we can improve offerings for more ease and efficiency in planning and execution of multi-stop routes.

Nurture our etiquette in a redistributed space.

Opportunity II

Alongside specific mobility needs we did of course find behavior that is independent of gender or sex. The individual motorized transport continues to have a tremendous impact on our transportation system. In pre-car times, streets used to be full of people; an important space for communication and activity. Old pictures show sceneries chock-full with pedestrians, along with trams, horse carriages, bikes and the occasional car. Cars soon conquered cities, and streets were reimagined for humans riding in cars. This established a standard, and one which may not sustain.

Nowadays, we see more people on bikes, scooters and kick-scooters, both electrified and human-powered, both shared and private, getting into conflict with humans in ever bigger cars. Fly taxis are yet to join the mix. Humans on all sorts of vehicles demand space for their individual mobility. Thus, it is a conflict of space and distribution. Cities will most likely see more of these conflicts in the future.

City planner Monderman established shared spaces, where lane separation is eliminated and humans establish a new etiquette to determine who has the right of way. This is the kind of etiquette that we would like to see more of. This etiquette answers the following questions: Does every mode need a separate lane? Are the streets for cars? For parked vehicles? Can we use streets in a better way? Can we lower the speed limit to below 50 km/h? What improvements are needed, except for bike lanes, to improve the use of micro mobility in a city? How can humans be happier, and the flow of traffic be more efficient at the same time? How can we provide services that make that happen?

From a city-perspective, this means we have to rethink how the system works best. And it is a huge opportunity to do this together with humans-on-all-kinds-of-vehicles. Barcelona has revived its philosophy of block design from the late 19th century. The housing blocks were designed to provide green space, but with the arrival of the car, everything turned out car-centric. With the introduction of the superblocks, private cars are now withdrawn from within the superblocks, giving more living space back to the people.

For those who offer Mobility as a Service (MaaS), as well as produce vehicles, let’s also take ownership of how we use the space. Bird is educating its users with their campaign “how to bird” — establishing rules such as: park respectfully, use caution at pedestrian crossings, don’t block ramps. We love this self-responsibility, even more so than the non-profit initiative Transportation for America, that informs the industry how to react to shared micro-mobility.

Focus on pedestrians.

Opportunity III

When we get off the vehicle, be it the car, the metro or the bike, we are all pedestrians. With the current industry focus on micro-mobility, we tend to forget about pedestrians. Can we acknowledge how important pedestrians are for good transportation systems in the city?

Pedestrians need space and freedom to move: Women are more likely to travel encumbered, meaning with other people and bags. We’ve heard women who would love to get more space, in order not to disturb other participants in traffic. This counts for women-with-dogs, women-with-kids (eg. on metro stairs), women-with-kids-on-bikes etc. Pedestrians overtake as well, you know. Pedestrians also need to be able to move around freely, need to access the sidewalks, with or without a stroller or wheelchair.

We need to prioritize pedestrians: In Sweden, local government in Karlskoga decided to prioritize pedestrian roads over major roads when clearing snow. The decision was inspired by a gender audit. In Karlskoga, as in many other places in the world, men are more likely to drive the car and women are more likely to use the sidewalk. It is easier to drive the car slowly through three inches of snow, than it is to try and push a buggy, or to walk, or ride a wheelchair. It came as a surprise that the number of accidents fell significantly in the winter months. The cost saved had been about three times the cost of winter road maintenance. Concluding: the female perspective can save money!

We need to cater pedestrians with destinations that are within reach: In Vienna, they’ve built neighborhoods around pedestrians, grouping functions that are frequently visited, such as grocery shopping, doctors, bus stops, kindergarten, and playgrounds. The quality of living for those who live in these neighborhoods is said to be very high.

If we celebrate pedestrians, we relieve the strain on the transportation system and improve the quality of living in the cities.

Build communities.

Opportunity IV

Logistics become easier for those who have someone to help them. We’re seeing this when it comes to transporting a cupboard home from the hardware store, as well as in family matters. And in critical situations where physical security is at stake, cohesion can be essential for survival.

Digitalization already offers many opportunities for women, as well as for men, to exchange information and support each other, both digitally by sharing experiences and tips, as well as physically by helping a neighbor for instance when transporting big items, or sharing a ride across the country. Hacks such as WhatsApp groups work well for house communities or kindergarten groups. In potentially dangerous situations at night on the way home, there are emergency numbers that connect you with a person who talks to you and reassures you on the way home.

We know from data that new mobility services like e-moped sharing have a primarily male user base. Why do women adopt these new services at a slower pace? Are they afraid to use electrified solutions? Do they not want to spend the money? Do they linger at the solutions they’ve been using for years? The answer may be multifaceted. What we do see, is that exchange in a community can be a start towards conversion. Coup offers a driving lesson. Some women do this at their own initiative: “I felt insecure about riding an e-moped, so I asked a female friend to explain the service and accompany me on my first ride.”

That is why we recommend: Bring users, and especially women, together. Create networks and communities where they can get the right support in any situation from other users. Most users love recommendations from real people because they trust them. Let users help each other. And when designing car-free cities we shall not only think of how people will move around but also how we can actively introduce them to alternatives to the car. If you work in MaaS, make sure your service integrates the community. The community can really lower the threshold for women to start using new mobility.

Develop transportation in a participative manner.


The female perspective as enriched in the workshop and described in this article inspires a recommendation regarding the way we work:

In our humble opinion, participation and cooperation are the best tools when designing all kinds of transport solutions. Participation and cooperation should take place in all fields of mobility: in public transport, in the car industry, in the micro mobility field, in the bike industry, in the building industry, in city design, in regulations, etc. Transportation is always happening in the public realm, thus we always interact with others. In a world that is fast-changing and complex, the motivations of our users are the sustaining factor. We need to constantly build empathy for our users, in order to understand their needs.

We can bring different stakeholders to the table. We can’t solve wicked problems alone. We need cooperation between all players in the field — companies, NGOs and cities — to move forward. Jelbi in Berlin is a good example of cooperation. It is a platform solution that offers a choice of transportation modes. It offers a quick overview of options, their time and cost, and thus enhances planning. The more providers cooperate, the more valuable a solution like Jelbi becomes. If our mobility system would be more efficient for the kind of multi-modal and inter-modal travel females execute, everyone could extend their range. Everyone could improve their access to jobs, services and social contacts. Everyone could combine paid and unpaid work better.

We can immerse ourselves in real-life experiences, because this will instantly raise our empathy with our users. Are you using your own product, regardless of your level of seniority? Are your managers using your product? Do your managers know what it takes to navigate through the city with three bags and two kids? We can go out and observe the users around us, because we can learn from each and every individual, their hacks, their motivations. Our solutions become more relevant to our users when we have more insight into their motivations. If we face our users’ challenges daily, catering solutions efficiently to their needs becomes second nature.

An example: It would be an easy one to state public transport shall improve on the typical female needs, like improve safety at night and access for baby strollers and wheelchairs. However, from a large study in Berlin (Büch, Mint Conference 2019), we know that improved reliability is actually the first topic demanded by women, more so than men. Why? Because often women have less of an alternative. It is difficult to ride a bike when you have a stroller to push, and groceries to carry. And when there are people waiting both at work, at the kindergarten, and at home, time pressure becomes a topic on all trips. When you have no alternative and when you perform under time pressure, reliability of your one-and-only solution is the most important thing. And if reliability is too hard to realize, improve information access, so planning becomes more realistic. For instance, taking the wrong exit on a metro station can cause a delay of 10 minutes easily. These kind of mistakes-of-everyday-life decrease efficiency. Better information about the stations and the vehicles would increase efficiency. Thus, we are thinking: which exit to take from the metro station, what side of the platform to catch the train. Small things that optimize daily hurries.

What do we want our mobility system to look like? Workshop participants are clear: there is no such thing as THE system but an overall system with various arrangements. Some areas work just fine, some not so much. To find out where to improve, we need citizens to participate. To fill gaps, we need to cooperate.

More reliable, efficient and elegant mobility.

Conclusion on what female users want

Women move differently, and that is ok. Diversity makes the world go round. We’ve seen that women in general have a greater need for flexibility. They create multi-modal travel patterns choosing the mode to fit the purpose. Women also perform inter-modal trips, combining several modes on one stretch. And women are more likely to schedule in a stopover (trip-chaining). To do so, they often rely on alternative transport, be it public, shared or private, be it electrified or manual. Women also feel more vulnerable when out and about alone. Women are more likely to create a tendency away from privately owned cars, which is good for any city. If cities respond to this tendency, making female mobility more reliable, efficient and of a higher quality, we can enhance the quality of life in our cities.

Described perspectives are not exclusive to women, but can enhance our view on diversity and alternative modalities in the mobility field. Perspectives described in this article can hardly be empathized in daily business reality — professionals in the field benefit from the detailed illustration of use cases and ideas as described in this article.

We would like to thank our participants for sharing their personal experiences in the workshop. We could not have done this without you! It is clear that there is more work to do than our 40 participants, or even all Women-in-Mobility can cover. With the described opportunities we hope to inspire the industry to see mobility in all its diversity and to create actionable directions for development, together.

Photo: Sophie Bellmann

About the authors:
Frieda Bellmann is a service design specialist in the field of mobility and is passionate about the study of human behavior in context.
Diana Polack works in city planning at the city of Berlin, in her free time she studies new methods of design and historical city plans.
Lieke Ypma works as a UX strategist in mobility and teaches advanced design methods.

Workshop and keynote by: Frieda Bellmann, Diana Polack, Lieke Ypma
Additional moderators:
Johanna Auferkamp, Ingo Kucz, Katharina Seeger, Lisa Uckrow
Sophie Bellmann
Ian Clover
Thanks to
Timm Kekeritz for supporting us!

Photos: Victoriano Izquierdo



Bellmann, Polack, Ypma
Female Mobility

FRIEDA BELLMANN is a mobility service designer. DIANA POLACK works in city planning. LIEKE YPMA is a mobility strategist.