If change in your city is exclusive, it’s simply not good enough. Change needs to be beneficial for every single citizen in your city. As this is a complex issue and certain perspectives are overlooked way too easy, this article includes some tips and skills you need to make your project inclusive for everyone.
The examples given in this article focus on mobility, but you can use these tips and skills on every other topic when it comes to implementing a new project.
Changing your city’s infrastructure or implementing specific policies to drive change in your city has to involve several perspectives. To give you an idea, here are some examples of vulnerable groups cities often overlook.
Women, in particular, have different needs than men. In terms of mobility, they often do a lot of unpaid domestic work such as childcare, which leads to travel patterns that are not as linear as men’s. As the majority of caregivers are still female, women face different barriers in traffic when they travel with children.
Women have a different sense of safety in a traffic environment, which needs to be considered in urban planning. Due to social norms and historical reasons, women tend to take less risk than men and have a higher fear of being hurt by traffic.
For more tips on how to build a city for women, check out this article. To learn more about the connection between women and cycling, read our article on the gender cycling gap and the CityChanger portrait on Angela Azzolino.
In a traffic environment, Disabled people face much more barriers than non-disabled people.
Defect lifts, bad maintenance of pavements, and elevated pavements are just some examples that make access to (sustainable) mobility more difficult.
What many cyclist advocacy groups for Disabled people condemn is the lack of awareness overall. Urban planning often lacks consideration for people with disabilities, which often results in a sense of insecurity and unsafety for Disabled people.
Click here to find out more on how to make your cycling infrastructure inclusive for all.
Communities of Colour
Communities of colour’s experiences and needs are often overlooked, especially when it comes to infrastructure. It needs to be acknowledged that systemic racism in urban planning is a very present topic that is affecting communities of colour. If you’re not actively working against it as an urban planner, what you do likely perpetuates the systemic racism a lot of cities are built upon.
Communities of colour are affected on two sides. First, it’s an issue of spatial segregation: As communities of colour are much more negatively impacted by gentrification, their neighbourhoods are often neglected in terms of renovation, green spaces, air quality and access to transit and mobility overall. Second, there’s interpersonal racism when it comes to specific modes of transport, for example cycling: the mindset that people of colour do not or should not cycle. It restricts people of colour from taking on cycling in the first place.
It also needs to be considered that communities of colour often have a different view on cars and that the messaging “all cars are bad” of some cycling advocacy groups can be harmful. As access to transit is often limited for communities of colour, cars are a necessity of mobility. Furthermore, as people of colour proportionally earn less than non-marginalized people, a car is much more a status symbol.
For more information on anti-blackness in cycling advocacy, check out this panel of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
So how can you change urban planning paradigms and keep everyone’s needs in mind? Here is our pretty straight forward top 3:
Instead of assuming people’s needs, ask them, and listen to them. Do it throughout the whole project cycle: At the beginning, during implementation, and when evaluating the process in the end. Don’t expect people to come to your office at a certain time (for public consultation, for example) – you won’t be reaching vulnerable groups this way.
Be present, start a conversation outside offices and within the neighbourhoods. Regularly ask yourself whose voices are being heard: Do survey responders reflect the demographic of your neighbourhood or city? How can you engage with those communities that you’re not hearing from yet?
Not only do you need to talk and listen to the people affected by what you want to change. You have to involve them in the planning and implementation process as well. The more various perspectives you involve in your project, the better.
In our article about feminist urban planning, we talked about gender mainstreaming. Basically, it means the incorporation of an equal gender perspective at all stages and levels of policies, projects and programmes. If this is not a legal requirement in your city yet, make it a personal requirement for you. Not just for gender, but race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, income and age. There are many components you have to consider when designing change for all – be aware of your own biases, educate yourself and your colleagues, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or face difficult conversations.
Involving a diverse group of people will have a greater effect on how others perceive your project and what you’re trying to change. When it comes to changing a city or neighbourhood, always consider the people who actually live there as experts: community engagement is key.
Decentre and Consider!
It’s essential for you to be open to other people’s experiences. In the process of planning your project, take a few steps back sometimes, decentre your own priorities and consider other experiences and opinions. No matter how experienced you are or how good your intentions are – you can’t just force upon people what you think is best for them; you need to consider their opinions, experiences and make their voices heard.
Your goal in driving change should always include to push for greater equity and to put everyone’s every-day life at the centre of your project and throughout urban planning.
When decentring your priorities, it is also important to create safe spaces for marginalized groups. As long as parts of your city do not include everyone, every vulnerable group must have a safe space to gather, to talk about their experiences, to gain confidence and to have an opportunity to mobilize. Some examples you can find in our articles include social cycling clubs for women, youth spaces or inclusive cycling hubs for Disabled people.
How to In a Nutshell…
To be inclusive and create a city that is liveable for all, you need to have an intersectional approach that involves several diverse perspectives. A project cannot be inclusive when only white men sit around the table.
It is incredibly important to involve representatives of marginalized groups in every step of a project, whether it is creating new policies on transport, designing public spaces, or changing the neighbourhood overall. For that to work, it is necessary to be present, listen, engage with communities, and decentre your own priorities.
 By using the capital D for Disabled we acknowledge that society continues to create barriers for people with impairments and that those barriers need to be removed. Disabled is a collective term while the word disabled is more descriptive. For more information, click here.