The figures communicated by the operators of shared mobility, in particular self-service bicycles and scooters, are indisputable: women represent only one third of the users of shared vehicles. The figures vary from country to country: the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany are exceptions in the use of bicycles as a means of daily travel, while the United States shows even greater inequalities. How can this difference in use between men and women in the shared micro-mobility market be explained?
Why are women less represented in the use of micro-mobility?
The perceived safety risk for women in these modes of travel is higher than for men. Women evaluate the infrastructure as insufficient to ensure the safety of users, which hinders their use compared to men who have fewer reservations. The main brake for women is therefore safety: they are not reassured by the idea of sharing the road with other types of vehicles, especially mixing with cars in areas of heavy traffic.
One of the reasons for these differences would also be the care and assistance given to others by women. Indeed, many women care for more dependent populations such as children and the elderly (in the home or in employment), often involving the movement of these people, moving errands, not allowing the use of scooters or self-service bicycles that do not meet their needs. According to different studies, women will more likely associate the use of bicycles and scooters with leisure travel vs. everyday travel, while men will more easily link micro-mobility to everyday use.
The gender gap would also be explained by the ownership history of some vehicles. Historically, motorised two-wheelers were overwhelmingly owned by men. This trend can be seen today, for example in Switzerland, where only 20% of moped owners are women. For this type of vehicle, we can add that they are designed more for men, especially in terms of the vehicle’s weight/strength ratio.
In general, it is observed that men assimilate new technologies more quickly to integrate them into their habits. We notice in the figures that the more senior an operator is on the market, the more women use its services.
We can also cite among the brakes perceived by women, the fact that they are expected to take care of their appearance in all circumstances, especially in the professional sphere, which implies arriving impeccably coiffed and dressed, which is not always easy when using shared bikes and scooters (helmet, speed, bad weather…)
What are the solutions for moving towards gender equality in shared mobility?
We design solutions to our own problems. One of the answers is a response to systemic obstacles reflected throughout society since one of the ways to erase inequalities of representation in the end-users would be to erase the inequalities of representation of professionals who propose micro-mobility solutions. Today, men occupying these jobs are in the majority. It would therefore be necessary to reverse this trend, which would no longer allow solutions used by men to be adapted to women, but rather to integrate this gender dynamic from the design of the solutions.
Meeting the needs of women users would be proposing a vision by and for women by responding to their concerns about the safety of using these vehicles, by offering content for them on communication channels favoured by women. It would also be necessary to increase efforts in the infrastructures with safer bicycle paths (wider, more adapted, separated from cars), penalties for dangerous behaviour, to increase the feeling of safety. It would also be necessary to adapt the vehicles but also all the material resulting from their morphology and needs.