Collecting Data for a Feminist and Inclusive Future of Mobility in Berlin
Zakia Soomauroo, a research associate at the Reiner Lemoine Institute (RLI) is physically far from her home country Mauritius, but very close in thought. As a PhD student at the Chair of Sustainable Human Settlements Economics at the Technische Universität Berlin, she has been investigating ways to decarbonize the transport sector in small island states since 2018. But she is also intensively involved with her current home in Berlin. Since the beginning of the year, she has been investigating the current traffic situation in the German capital for a feminist mobility project.
“This involves, for example, what it means to be out and about with a stroller or to ride a bicycle comfortably and safely to daycare,” explains the Mauritian scientist.
The research project “Feminist and Inclusive Research for Climate-Friendly Mobility in Berlin” (FAIRberlin) collects data for a transformation of the mobility sector in Berlin with a focus on inclusion, marginalized groups and transdisciplinarity. The project, funded by the Climate Change Center Berlin Brandenburg, is led by Dr. Kathrin Goldammer and Dr. Philipp Blechinger (Reiner Lemoine Institute) and Prof. Dr. Sophia Becker (TU Berlin/IASS). The team aims to identify gender-specific differences in the distribution of traffic among different modes of transportation (modal split) and in mobility preferences in order to derive recommendations for a more equitable transportation system. To this end, the researchers also use data-based findings from civil society organizations in Berlin such as Changing Cities and Parkplatz Transform. The main research methods are surveys and in-depth interviews at specific locations, such as daycare centers, playgrounds and libraries.
“So far, there are few robust data analyses specifically on the mobility patterns, needs and lived experiences of these groups and of women,” regrets project leader Prof. Dr. Sophia Becker, TU Berlin. “We intend to close the gender gap in data so that planning, design, operation and experience in transport and mobility are inclusive and equitable. In addition to the theoretical perspective of gender studies and urban change, the role of gender in the mobility transition will be explored through insights from real life experiences. This includes, for example, the mobility experiences of pregnant women or disabled people.”
To this end, the researchers are collecting new data by surveying people on site, for example in daycare centers, as well as through workshops and interviews with experts from areas such as research, politics, and transportation services. The focus is on information about mobility patterns, means of transport used, mobility needs and restrictions, and perceptions of existing mobility services and infrastructure. The actual experienced gender-specific needs and patterns of women and marginalized groups in Berlin are captured in a multi-layered way. For example, even if transport infrastructure such as bike lanes or buses in public transport, are considered gender-neutral, men and women experience the same structure differently. Therefore, we follow an ethnographic approach and focus on the perspective of these individuals. In doing so, their lived experiences become primary sources of data. The project is important because mobility is currently a controversial topic in Berlin: it affects space, the ethics of sustainability and climate change as well as the future of mobility. Our work ensures that women’s voices, which are often not present, are strengthened and taken into account. Intersectionality is also an important aspect for us. Therefore, the experiences of, for example, chronically ill people or people of color are also explored for the project. We want to understand how they perceive mobility options, safety and comfort, and the economics of mobility.”
© Oskar Kirsch
The new findings will help politicians, scientists and representatives of civil society, for example, to make the mobility revolution more socially just. On this basis, the project group will derive concrete and sensible recommendations for action – “for a just transport turnaround” hopes Zakia Soomauroo. “Our empirical results, which will feed into the ongoing discussions, are based on the needs and considerations of citizens* and should give more mobility users a greater say in future mobility decisions and planning,” says Soomauroo.