The 1,5 billion women challenge

Pedalista, Botkyrka, Sweden

SDG 3: Good health and well-beingSDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 8: Decent work and economic growthSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
Pedalista is an initiative lead by Living Cities, a non-profit corporation that offers a dynamic platform for urban development and innovation globally. Together with citizens, communities, entrepreneurs, and governments they work for inclusive, resilient and living cities to find new ways of managing cities and implementing change. Pedalista is an initiative within the project “Women on Wheels”, which aims to improve women’s mobility and an initiative that seeks creative ways to provide women access to the cheapest and greenest means of transportation; the bicycle.

Pedalista is trying to make cycling accessible to more women all over the world. Many cities are not planned for bikes, forcing bicyclists to share the roads with cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes, making the practice of riding a bike unsafe. This is a physical obstacle that the initiative Pedalista is trying to overcome. However, the hesitance for women to use bikes are not only physical. A common understanding is that mobility behaviour is gendered. Men and women often perceive themselves as mobile but through closer analysis there are both physical and social barriers that keep women from accessing the urban public space to the same extent as men. These barriers can only be highlighted if asking and talking to women themselves. If a gender perspective is not included in the planning process of public space, the needs of women are usually overlooked. When asking inhabitants in Botkyrka if they would like to use the bike, 70% answered positively, however only 4% answered that they actually do.

Good practices & solutions

The aim of Pedalista is to increase the number of women that uses a bike in Botkyrka. In this case, the bicycle is used both as a mobility tool, but also to increase women’s empowerment, as well as contribute to community development based on a gender equal and inclusive approach, creating a change at a local level. The majority of the people working on the project are using the bicycle in their every-day life which have created a broader understanding of the problem, since many of them also represent the target group. Engagement and communication with the target group (women that do not have access to biking) throughout the whole process are crucial. Just because something is not being used, does not mean that people do not want it.

Outcome & opportunities

Pedalista is an ongoing project with the aim to develop and complete the creation of a tool box that includes methods for carrying out analysis, as well as finding and implement solutions to making bicycling more accessible to women and marginalized groups. One insight from working with small scale projects on a local level is that the key factors for success are; involving the target group and think outside the box from a traditional mobility planning discipline.

Lessons learned

The women in Botkyrka do not refrain from using bicycles due to of lack of interest, but because of several social barriers preventing them from using it. Even in well-developed urban areas, women do not utilise mobility options to the same extent that men do. Women’s mobility, especially those living in the suburbs, is often ignored if a gender perspective is not included in the transportation planning. This is due to deeply rooted social and cultural norms, as well as gender-based stereotypes where women, even in developed countries, tend to carry a bigger responsibility for the household and child care. This situation has an impact on their travel patterns. The routes are often more complicated, they make several stops at different times during the day and they often travel with kids or goods. Making the bicycle more accessible supports integration and brings social benefits to areas that are more vulnerable since the possibility to access public spaces increases. The bike can also act as a powerful tool for empowerment, freedom and sustainability.

Related SDG targets
  • 5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • 5.b Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
  • 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium- sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
  • 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
  • 11.2 By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding
    public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
  • 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
  • 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships
Further reading

Photo: © Women on wheels

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Project: Urban Girls Movement