Feeling safe in public space

How can we ensure everyone feels equally safe in our public spaces, regardless of time or place? Recent initiatives aimed at improving perceptions of safety, particularly for women, girls and gender diverse people in our public spaces are putting community voices and lived experience front and centre.

Women, girls and gender-diverse people often feel unsafe in our public spaces, especially after dark. The NSW government's recent Safer Cities Survey found women were twice as likely to feel unsafe in public spaces after dark compared to men and, for most people, a sense of safety in public spaces influences the routes they choose. Whether a public space has plenty of people around, is well-maintained or has sufficient lighting, has big impacts on how safe people feel being there.

The Safer Cities program is a $30million program run by Transport for NSW aimed at improving perception of safety in our cities and towns and enable equitable access to walking and cycling for all. Initiatives developed through and supporting the program include:

  • Safer Cities: Her Way a collaborative partnership program between Transport for NSW and a number of pilot councils across NSW aimed at improving the perception of safety for women, girls and gender diverse people when walking or moving to, through and within public spaces and transport hubs.
  • Draft resources for the Great Places Toolkit, including the Safer Cities Survey report.
  • Partnering with the NSW Women’s Safety Commissioner to support an exciting collaboration between CrowdSpot and Monash University’s XYX Lab, who have  developed YourGround NSW a digital platform aimed at advancing knowledge of safety in public space for women, girls and gender-diverse people. YourGround NSW asks users to pin a spot on an interactive map that shows where in their daily life they feel safe and what places make them feel unsafe or excluded. The teams aim to use this collection of lived experiences to inform planning policies and practices.
  • The NSW Public Spaces Charter, underpins the program with safe and secure access and use of public space at all times of the day as one of the 10 key principles.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024,Transport for NSW hosted a webinar as part of the Safer Cities program – New ways forward: Creating safer journeys for women, girls and gender diverse people. The draft resources featured in this webinar are available in the Great Places Toolkit.

Watch on demand

Transport for NSW webinar - New ways forward: Creating safer journeys for women, girls and gender diverse people.

These local initiatives align with international efforts such as the United Nations' Safer Cities for Girls programme, which is aimed at "building safe, accountable, and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls."

While there is still much room for improvement, listening to the people who currently feel unsafe or unwelcome, and including their voices in design and planning processes will pave the way for safer, kinder, more equitable public spaces for all.

Photo by Geronimo Giqueaux on Unsplash

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