Making Gender Inclusive Spaces Around Rea Vaya Transit Areas: The Case of Commissioner Street.

Conco, Zola
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University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
The planning profession has been regarded as a mechanical, value free activity and mainly dominated by male perceptions. Planning policy has begun to consider more social issues, however, even with this transition, gender issues in the urban environment have been a particular challenge and have not been completely understood by planners. As a result gender issues have often not been considered in the physical design of the urban environments. The travel patterns of women and men have generally been understood to differ due to the different roles played by women and men in our societies. However, women’s vulnerability may also shape their travel patterns within the city. While numerous studies have presented findings about the strong relationship between women and their fears within the built environment, particularly in public spaces, little attention has been given to the relationship between women’s fear and transit environments in South African cities. This is an important relationship to be considered, as the degree to which this affects women will determine the extent to which they are able to participate equally in the city. A number of development plans have been introduced into the city of Johannesburg, as a method of improving the lives of its citizens. One of these has been the introduction of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). However, it appears that little consideration has been paid to the environments around that BRT stations, primarily with concerns of gender sensitivities. Therefore, this study investigates whether the physical design of the built environment around the BRT stations has considered the effects of gender sensitivities on women’s travel patterns. The research assess whether the built environment around the bus stations have helped to reduce the spatial barriers faced by women in the city, namely their vulnerability and facilitate their right to the city. A case study was done around the Rea Vaya station on Commissioner Street and the adjacent urban spaces. Women of various ages were interviewed in an open-ended manner to gather in-depth information about women’s personal experiences and concerns for safety in the city centre. The case study also included a safety audit of the site, which was conducted by the researcher. High levels of actual and perceived safety amongst women were found, especially for walking in the area and using the BRT at night. As a result, women who were using the site were found to have distinct needs in ensuring their safety and comfort while using the space. A mismatch was found in the responses of women’s expressed needs and the variety of common safety strategies implemented by the City of Johannesburg (CoJ). The conclusion argues that women’s safety is an essential but neglected issue, which deserves the attention of urban planners. Drawing on responses from the case study and interviews, the research offers a set of recommendations that planning policy that focuses on the initiatives and responses that can be used to improve on women’s experience of the site.
Planning Honours report 2015, Wits University
women, gendered spaces, Rea Vaya, public space, transit, spatial barriers
Conco, Z (2015). Making Gender Inclusive Spaces Around Rea Vaya Transit Areas: The Case of Commissioner Street, Johannesburg