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More lighting alone does not create safer cities. Look at what research with young women tells us

03 Jun 2019

This article was co-authored by ARUP VIC/SA lighting leader Tim Hunt. The site analysis was led by ARUP lighting designer Hoa Yang .  This article appeared in "The Conversation" May 28, 2019

In 2019, The Australia We Want report noted that at least half of Australian women do not feel safe walking alone at night. This is unsurprising given the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender violence women manage when moving through cities every day. Women's avoidance of areas of the city creates a complex internal geography of exclusion zones and "take extreme care" zones - all in the hope that this vigilance will keep them out of harm's way.

Protecting women from the violence committed by some men is a priority. So too is recognising that most cities are gender-blind and disregard women's needs and experiences.

We need to understand the patterns that exclude women from areas of cities and not defer to the usual responses - brighter lighting, more CCTV cameras and more authority figures. In fact, our research into unsafe "hotspots" has found young women's perceptions of urban safety do not correlate with the most brightly lit spaces.

We know that creating safer cities for women requires one fundamental shift: that we listen to women's voices. We need to develop urban strategies and planning policies that draw on women's experience and expertise as users of city spaces.

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