Victoria Walks in The Conversation

18 Dec 2017

Our research on Young People and Walking has been reported in The Conversation, with an excellent article by Jan Garrard, Senior Lecturer at Deakin University and the report author.

The article outlines some of the key findings of the study. Young people want to live in walkable neighbourhoods with shops and services close by and quality public transport to reach places further afield.

Despite this, Dr Garrard notes:

“We continue to invest in hugely expensive freeways and toll roads with questionable benefit-to-cost ratios. At the same time, we fail to invest in walking and cycling infrastructure with benefit-to-cost ratios that road-builders can only dream of – a median ratio of 5:1 based on a systematic review.”

The study surveyed more than a thousand people aged 15-20 and found only 15% of young women felt safe walking alone at night, compared to 54% of males. The article takes a particular look at this issue.

“The recent OECD Better Life Index shows this level of fear is not “normal” in wealthy developed countries. Only 64% of Australians feel safe walking alone at night, well below countries such as the US (74%), UK (77%) and Canada (81%).

Tellingly, Australia has the greatest gender difference in feeling safe among the 35 OECD countries. Australian men (77%) are close to the OECD average (79%), but Australian women (50%) are well below the average (61%). Only women in Chile, Mexico and Hungary feel less safe walking alone at night than women in Australia.”

So why do Australians, especially women, feel less safe?  Dr Garrard points to harassment in the street as a key factor.

“Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that while men experience higher rates of violence overall, women are twice as likely as men to experience sexual harassment.”

The comments we received in our study certainly back that view.

“As a girl while walking by myself or in a group of girls particularly at night we get cat called very often and it's disgusting and scares me personally.”

“I also get cat called sometimes when walking which is even more intimidating. I'm a 15 year old girl. Men should not be catcalling me but they do.”

“I'm a girl, and school uniform or just casual dress, whenever I walk along the highway I am constantly honked at and sometimes disgusting men will yell something to me. It's awful and that makes me feel unsafe and unhappy.”

Victoria Walks is calling on men to rethink the way they interact with women (see for example our Letter to the Editor which was printed in a number of papers). It is clear that women don’t see cat-calling as a compliment.

As one young woman succinctly put it:

“I think it sucks that women feel the need to be afraid of walking alone.”

Victoria Walks research on Young People and Walking was conducted in collaboration with YACVic and funded by VicHealth.

Read the Article in The Conversation