Gendered Urban Acupuncture: How to Promote Cycling for Women in a World Designed for Men

Cities for Women by Women

A few months ago, I stumbled upon an interesting BBC article written by Stephanie Hegarty called "What would a city designed by women be like?". The writer openly tackled an important feminist issue especially when she said:

"Cities are supposed to be built for all of us, but they aren't built by all of us. Every city in the world has been designed and built by men. But what if the other half had a go?"

I am a woman who lived most of her life in the Middle East where women suffer from utter inequality and that fueled me with passion for getting deeper into the issues women are facing on daily basis, especially when it comes to cycling. This research is dedicated to answering many questions related to how women cycling can be promoted through some interventions with spatial and urban planning. Those interventions could be quoted or inspired by an already existing example of a country that so far accomplished a good example of the best cycling practice into another country that has a huge gap with gender equality and nearly no cycling practice for women. Intervening instantly with an unhealthy urban realm to release the stress and promote sustainability is a promising method called Urban Acupuncture.

How Transferring the Best Practice Could Be Done

The Netherlands and Egypt are the best two examples this research paper delved into for the sake of proposing interventions that could be implemented instantly into the urban space in order to encourage Egyptian woman to reconsider the bicycle as part of her mobility options. As Steve Jobs stated before "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them". Proposing urban solutions for women and giving them the chance to start changing the norm can be of a good impact on their future lives.

Gendered Urban Acupuncture Application

To put the philosophy into practice, here is the first type of case studies this research utilized. An already existing top-down example is the city ofUtrecht, Netherlands, a case study to present how a city has succeeded to change the layout of mobility, and most importantly, having a percentage of women participating in the practice more than men is something worth studying. Those projects that transformed a city like Utrecht to be chosen as the best cycling city in the world— according to the Global Bicycle Cities Index 2019— have a lot to learn from, get inspired by and quoting ideas from in order to be transferred and to be adapted into another context—like Alexandria in Egypt the example that this research used. What transformations happened in Utrecht? Gemeente Utrecht has made a giant effort to transform the city and this effort has been getting documented as the plan continues till 2040:

  • Stationsplein parking
  • The Jaarbeursplein
  • A Complete Redesign of the Historical Center
  • Redesign Parts of Residential Areas
  • Additional Elements of Urban Acupuncture for Cycling
  • Maps and Mobile Applications for Safest Routes


A bottom-up case study: Based on the top-down strategies, a proposed bottom-up case study is developed with practical interventions to be implemented in real life in the city of Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria is the second-largest city in the country of Egypt, It has a good potential for promoting gendered cycling and already many practices have been initiated but very random and not consistent. The potential projects for promoting cycling for women are:

  • Cycling Lessons for Women
  • Cycling Events for Women in Public Areas
  • Daily Group Ride to Work
  • Advertisement Along the Busy Roads
  • Gendered Pop Up Parkings
  • Maps and Mobile Applications for Safest Routes.


The strategy followed for implementing all these projects was developed using Urban Acupuncture philosophy after adding the gender lens and adapting it with the new context.

  • Location Choice
  • Approach
  • Interventions
  • Outcome

Finally

The main point behind this research is to shed the light on a certain issue and give a glimpse of how a simple practice like riding a bicycle could be popularized through small interventions in a practical way and manifests for gender equality and women emancipation especially that gender issues are always hindered by systems in a conscious or unconscious way. Those interventions could be extended more smartly but after the practice itself got promoted and after seeing a lot of women in the streets claiming their right to space which is the hardest part, however, still achievable. From the urban planning lens, cities are like playdough and they could be reformed to give a better shape or to make a more inclusive realm. You—as an inhabitant—have the sculpture tools so you can do it all. If all people keep going towards the practices favouring better urbanism and better livability, the power scale will eventually drop on their side and all other policies will have to follow.

If you want to dive deeper into this research, please check here. 

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