Vi­sion to make streets safer for women

The Press - - News - MICHELLE DUFF

Re­design­ing cities to pre­vent vi­o­lence against women and re­duce street ha­rass­ment and as­sault will be a pri­or­ity for Women’s Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter.

Gen­ter, who is also as­so­ciate min­is­ter of health and trans­port, said women are be­ing let down by the de­sign of cities and streetscapes that put them at in­creased risk.

She will work with the New Zealand Trans­port Agency and lo­cal coun­cils to push for all en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign projects to in­cor­po­rate el­e­ments that will pre­vent harm to women.

In an in­ter­view with Stuff, the Green Party MP said it was a con­cern that only a third of peo­ple who cy­cled for trans­port were women, a fig­ure based on the 2015 Min­istry of Trans­port Cy­cling New Zealand Travel Sur­vey. She said it was of­ten dif­fi­cult for women to walk or catch pub­lic trans­port, es­pe­cially with chil­dren.

‘‘Crime pre­ven­tion through en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign is some­thing that needs to be taken into ac­count, and that par­tic­u­larly af­fects women,’’ she said.

‘‘I think New Zealand is a fairly safe coun­try, but there’s a lot we can do with the built en­vi­ron­ment. En­sur­ing that there aren’t en­trap­ment points for ex­am­ple, that you’ve got well-lit routes, that you’re not plan­ning off-street cy­cle­ways through parks that might be empty at cer­tain times of the day, which would be more dan­ger­ous for women.’’

En­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to walk or cy­cle also cre­ated a safer en­vi­ron­ment, Gen­ter said, due to more ‘‘pas­sive sur­veil­lance’’ - the per­ceived no­tion of be­ing caught when a po­ten­tial of­fender thought they were be­ing watched.

In Oc­to­ber, a Stan­ford Univer­sity study showed women around the world walked sig­nif­i­cantly fewer steps than men.

How­ever, in bike-friendly Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, re­search showed about half of cy­clists were women, Gen­ter said.

‘‘So there’s a real op­por­tu­nity in New Zealand to make cities more friendly for women and make it eas­ier for them to be ac­tive, make it eas­ier for their kids to walk or cy­cle to school,’’ she said.

‘‘I will en­sure that we’re iden­ti­fy­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove de­sign for all peo­ple, be­cause when you make your towns and cities friend­lier for women and chil­dren it ben­e­fits ev­ery­one.’’

Auck­land Coun­cil’s de­sign of­fice gen­eral man­ager, Ludo Camp­bell Reid, said there was a missed op­por­tu­nity for New Zealand to de­sign crime out of its towns and cities.

‘‘One of the best lit­mus test for a safe pub­lic space is if a woman is happy to walk down it at any time of the day. You don’t judge it by if a mid­dle-aged man feels com­fort­able walk­ing through the space. It’s if a lone woman can walk through and feel safe,’’ Camp­bell Reid said.

‘‘It is not be­ing done con­sis­tently in New Zealand – we ab­so­lutely must do bet­ter.’’

This year, the coun­cil pro­duced a sec­tion of the Auck­land De­sign Man­ual, a guide for ar­chi­tects and prop­erty de­vel­op­ers, on how to de­sign for max­i­mum safety. ‘‘We be­lieve it’s so im­por­tant.’’

In­spec­tor Paula Holt of the po­lice’s Na­tional Pre­ven­tion Cen­tre said crime pre­ven­tion through en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign was ex­tremely ef­fec­tive.

‘‘It can have a very, very sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. It’s amaz­ing what can be achieved or changed sim­ply by open­ing up a line of sight.’’

The en­vi­ron­ment was as­sessed by po­lice as part of the ‘‘crime tri­an­gle’’ of pre­ven­tion – the vic­tim, of­fender, and the scene.

Other pri­or­i­ties for Gen­ter in­clude meet­ing with Health Min­istry of­fi­cials to dis­cuss cour­ses of ac­tion to im­prove en­dometrio­sis care, ma­ter­nity ser­vices and post­na­tal de­pres­sion as­sis­tance.

‘‘Re­search shows that the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion takes women’s pain much less se­ri­ously, whether it’s through en­dometrio­sis or other types of con­di­tions that cause re­ally se­vere pe­riod pain.’’ It’s tak­ing longer to di­ag­nose.

PHOTO: MONIQUE FORD/ STUFF

Min­is­ter for Women Julie Anne Gen­ter says cities need to be de­signed with women front of mind.

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