Having been a social planner for over ten years, I am acutely aware of how historical town planning has overlooked the needs of women and mothers.
In their article for The Conversation, academics Dorina Pojani, Dorothy Wardale, and Kerry Brown illustrate this clearly, painting a picture of cities zoned to separate the core activities of women and families lives. Lives that are interwoven with care and community responsibilities.
At a networking event recently, I was asked about Middle Ground Motherhood. I described the goals and the current activism campaigns. After describing the importance of paid parental leave, closing the gender pay gap and universal childcare, I mentioned cycling. “Did you say cycling?”, a puzzled face looked back at me. “What does cycling have to do with it?”, she said, perplexed.
Transport options have much to do with gender and mothering. Viable options are lacking because men did not build cities to accommodate women and mothers who work outside the home. They were built for the breadwinner, ostensibly the male, to go to the city or work site to make bacon while women stayed to care for the home and children.
And here’s the thing, cities are still made with this model in mind. If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t need the Babes on Bikes campaign. A campaign to make cycling safe and accessible for women and children would be a moot point.
Despite women in Australia being more educated, with more skills than our male counterparts, our levels of workforce participation are less and the gender pay gap remains.
ABC reporter Sushi Das explored the gender pay gap and concluded, “Carer responsibilities, carried largely by women, as well as opportunities for part-time work and flexible working arrangements, all conspire to funnel women into particular industries and sectors”.
Related to this, I believe the additional layer of weighing up how to manage the commute and care responsibilities is another barrier to progress. The academics agree, saying, “In a world where women drive less than men, getting around is difficult”. This is part of the reason remote work is transformative for women.
Their research and my own experience and observations of my peers are that public transport is largely incompatible with the needs of working mothers. Walking is also tricky in cities designed for able-bodied men. “Tall kerbs, missing sidewalks, poorly lit alleys, and short time spans of pedestrian signals disadvantage both young parents who need to push prams (which still falls mostly to women) and older people with physical impairments,” says Pojani and co. Street harassment is another factor that puts women off walking.
Cycling could be the answer, but currently, there is a large gender-based gap in participation. Investigations on rates of cycling show women cycle half as often as men. Women feel unsafe on busy roads, particularly when cycling with children. To make cycling possible for women and mothers, fit for purpose cycling infrastructure is needed.
Cargo bikes and E-bikes are changing the game. More women are taking up these options as they make it possible to travel with children and the luggage associated with transporting small people and carrying the mental, and physical load of caring responsibilities.
I invite you to share the motherload by getting behind our crowd-funding campaign to screen the multi-award-winning documentary Motherload.
MOTHERLOAD captures a new mother’s quest to understand the increasing isolation and disconnection of modern life, its planetary impact, and how cargo bikes could be an antidote.
The screening will support the Babes on Bikes campaign by giving women, mothers, parents and cyclists the opportunity to gather, get informed, and celebrate cycling with kids and other precious cargo.
There will be a cargo and E-bike display thanks to Will Ride and Adelaide Cargo Bikes.
The event is scheduled for Sunday 29 May 2022, from 1 pm to 4 pm at the Healthy Living Precinct, Welland.
Support our Pozible Campaign to make it happen by pledging to secure your tickets now!