Urban planning where gender, equality and safety in public spaces all count

Urban planning with a gender perspective centres on everyday life and promotes an inclusive model for the built environment which takes into account gender, age and origins to construct a more equal city, safer and free of barriers. The ‘Manual of urban planning for everyday life’ sets out criteria, methodology and tools for urban planning teams.

14/02/2019 19:28 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

The gender perspective in urban planning puts everyday life at the centre of policies, responding to the demands of the city as a whole through an inclusive vision. The aim of this new vision is for public spaces to accommodate the needs of the entire population, particularly more vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly and young children, and includes new approaches previously far-removed from traditional urban planning.

The cross-cutting gender approach in municipal policies started being applied to urban planning to design measures relating to the management of the city’s public space, mobility and ecology. Some exploratory walks were organised to identify the specific needs of each neighbourhood, with local residents and women in particular playing an active role in analysing local problems and proposing improvements, especially in terms of the perception of safety. The walks involved 173 participants in all and were conducted in eleven city neighbourhoods, some of which form part of the Neighbourhood Plan.

Manual of urban planning for everyday life

In an effort to ensure that a cross-cutting gender approach is applied in urban policies, the City Council has published a guide setting out gender criteria and aimed at technical teams involved in planning, drafting and executing projects in the city.

The guide, Manual d’urbanisme de la vida quotidiana, aims to overcome the traditional separation of urban planning between zones and systems, public and private space. It therefore regards the city as a whole, seeking to reflect its complexity and working at different levels to include factors as diverse as time, social fabric and the degree of autonomy of inhabitants.

Training on the gender perspective

In addition, in the last two years there have been training sessions on the gender perspective for technical staff and directors responsible for putting together projects in the Area of Urban Ecology. As a result, staff working in urban planning now have the necessary knowledge and the tools and instruments set out in the manual to be able to properly build the gender perspective into all urban projects.

Urban projects with the gender perspective

Work is being done in the planning sphere to strengthen everyday networks in the neighbourhoods, made up of a series of spaces for people to interact, everyday facilities, commerce, public transport stops and connecting streets. Through public space, the aim is for the city’s streets, squares, parks and gardens to be planned so that they are perceived as safe and avoid dark spots. Some examples of urban planning which employs the gender perspective are:

  • Colònia Santiveri: The planning criteria for C/ Gabriel Miró, C/ Torres de Marina and C/ Encuny came from an analysis made on an exploratory walk involving experts and neighbourhood residents to identify the black spots and shortcomings in the area which generated the most insecurity, particularly for women. As a result of these demands, the streets around he Colònia Santiveri now have better lighting and visibility, with elements impairing visibility being repositioned, improvements in vegetation and wider pavements to make the area safer, more accessible and more pleasant.
  • Meridiana: The participatory process to agree on the remodelling of the avenue used the gender perspective to define improvements in crossing the street and in relation to the neighbourhoods on both sides of it. Workgroups made up of women, local residents, retailers, senior citizens, young people, children and people with functional diversity started a process of reflection using the gender perspective to look at the everyday needs of the local population. All the knowledge gained in these sessions was included in the analysis of the neighbourhoods to improve the everyday network there and activate and strengthen cross-cutting themes as a priority.
  • Gràcia: This district has started a pilot project to put together a map of the everyday local network, to include facilities, public spaces and other services, indicating accessible and safe routes, as well as alternatives. A methodology has thus been developed to analyse physical space and people’s activity to describe which elements facilitate everyday tasks and the care of others, and which elements hamper them.
  • New bus network: The bus is the means of public transport most used by women, young children and the elderly. Because of this, improving it from a gender perspective makes it more accessible to all citizens. In this respect, lighting is being improved at all new bus-stops to improve visibility and make them safer.
  • Superblocks: One of the main goals of the superblock programme is to improve the indicators associated with the gender perspective in public space, helping to build a better city with better quality of life. Some examples of this include more trees and more pedestrian space, less traffic and less noise and air pollution. Assessment methodology which has gender in mind has also been implemented, such as satisfaction surveys on the use of urban space. For instance, at the Poblenou superblock a participatory evaluation was conducted to assess the environmental impact on health and daily life.