Magazine article Women & Environments International Magazine

Women at the Crossroads with Transportation, the Environment and the Economy: Experiences and Challenges in Germany

Magazine article Women & Environments International Magazine

Women at the Crossroads with Transportation, the Environment and the Economy: Experiences and Challenges in Germany

Article excerpt

It started with Women's "Initiatives" (ed.: citizens' petitions) in Germany. "Women In Motion" was the name of a national network of women involved in transportation "initiatives," transportation policy, planning, research, administration, related organizations, and businesses. The network was founded in 1989. It grew out of protests against transport policies all over the country, which ignored everyday-needs and mobility patterns of all but able-bodied, employed men. The "rail-free inner city" program, in the 1980's, was such a case. The government wanted to get rid of streetcars in Frankfurt, as it had done in so many other cities. Based on intensive and meticulous research, the women confronted the male-centred transportation research community with the conditions they had been living under. Until then, the special needs of men prevailed in transportation research and contributed to present gender relations. After that, national politics in Germany were, for the first time, faced with the reality of "women in motion."

It finally dawned on those responsible for traffic conditions, laws and regulations in our communities that in a country with a high level of population density, urbanization, public transport and railways networks, "emancipation from the car" could be a thinkable prospect. "Emancipation from the car" was also the title of the first petition to parliament, in 1990. The petition addressed the gendered realities in the field of transportation. Men especially should take the prospect of "emancipation from the car" seriously. The car-based urban regions and their "suburbanizing" rural periphery pose a tremendous environmental problem. Until now, shaping the politics and policies of German socio/economic reality, was not in women's hands; neither was running the economy, transportation or the protection of the environment. This article focuses therefore on how gender, environment, economy and transportation intersect.

Gendered Transportation Reality and Rationality

Until now transportation science, planning and politics have always assumed responsibility for planning, financing and improving mobility for all. Yet, in the past, transportation professionals prioritized needs for the movement of both people and goods, based on their personal experiences and perspectives. Traditionally, transportation enjoyed large shares of public budgets, financing and bureaucracies at all levels of government to manage road construction, especially for long distance expressways, which would "boost the economy." Gradually however, this has proven to be at the expense of public transportation, especially non-motorized movement. The trend of the European Union to privatize public services jeopardizes the longstanding responsibility of the public transportation sector for long-term transportation needs of the whole society. Changing sections of the German constitution to allow for the privatization of the German railroads without ensuring basic levels of social or environmental services is a case in point. The first step of this transition was the division of the old non-transparent public transport planning into a public "ordering" and a commercial "selling" section of public transportation services. The mandate for public decision making, offered a great opportunity for developing strict procedures for "ordering" which would ensure public transparency, participation and allow women's and gender initiatives including "zero-ordering." Thus the selling off of the longstanding public service railway maintenance, especially in the critical short-distance sector to ad hoc, for-profit and competitive contracts failed to ensure public services at environmentally and socially sustainable and gender equitable levels. European, national and local privatization policies only compound these infrastructure problems.

Transportation professionals have a mindset, which reduces human existence and actions to that of "clients" or "consumers," which are linguistically subsumed under the male gender. …

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