Is it safe to walk here? Design and policy responses to women's fear of victimisation in public spaces
"Is it safe to walk here?" gives a good illustration of the influence ofspatial design and urban attractiveness on the perception of safety of women. Itmakes some interesting observations of the causes of the incongruity of theactual number of crimes committed and the feelings of insecurity womenexperience. The research paper identifies six spatial design measures to enhancewomen's perception of safety, complemented by four more general strategies tomake people feel safer on the streets.
Fear of victimisation and crime are important concerns for women in cities.Women typically report higher levels of fear than men. Women’s fear isparticularly associated with specific environmental conditions and settings. Inthis research an overview is given of women’s fear of crime in public spaces.After a discussion of a series of facts and fallacies about women’s fear, theoutcomes of fear as reflected in women’s behaviour and travel patterns arereviewed.
Empirical findings are reported from two surveys of women in neighbourhoodparks and waiting at bus stops in Los Angeles, California. The report discussesdesign and policy responses to women’s fear of victimisation. Theinterrelationship between environment and crime is analysed, with suggestionsfor design and planning strategies to create safer public spaces.
On 18–20 November 2004, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) organised aConference on Research on Women’s Issues in Transportation in Chicago, Illinois.As a part of the conference, a call for papers was issued. The selected papersare peer reviewed and then presented at the conference. ´Is it safe to walkhere?´ is one of the selected peer reviewed papers presented at the Chicagoconference.
This article was published by the TRB. The TRB is part of the NationalAcademies, an American academic think tank (see links below).
The research paper is based upon two surveys and literature study. The twosurveys were conducted in Los Angeles, USA - one amongst women at bus stops, andone amongst women using public parks.
Certain planning and design interventions can help block opportunities forcrime, instil feelings of safety, and thus facilitate physical activity:
- general upkeep and maintenance of the physical environment has a positiveimpact on crime reduction
- empty streets and desolate public spaces generate fear and also provideopportunities for criminal acts to go unnoticed - design can createpreconditions for informal but effective control of the public environment(facilitating eyes on the street)
- good lighting can reduce assaults and perceptions of fear
- the land uses that line streets or surround public spaces are crucial fortheir safety
- design of public spaces should help ease tension and fear between differentgroups by promoting their peaceful coexistence
- planning and design of a recreational or transit facility should extendbeyond the facility itself to incorporate the public environments that lead toor are closely associated with the facility
- strategies and interventions that focus on enhancing safety in public spacesshould be composite and synergistic - for example, environmental modificationsmay be complemented by educational campaigns and courses at schools
University of California, Los Angeles
By: Bart Nijhof,