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Navigating Public Spaces Designed For Men

TW: Public Sexual Harrassment

A quick search for which app is best for female safety receives a staggering 347,000,000 results. Before your eyes are millions of web pages bursting with recommendations for products, apps, and tips to help us stay safe when we're out alone. But why are these pages always titled ‘basic safety tips you need to know’ and ‘top tips for staying safe’, suggesting the responsibility lies with us? And why is harassment and violence towards women disproportionately affecting those from poorer backgrounds?

The design of our public spaces excludes women. It’s evident every time you step outside. From the placement and timing of streetlights, often not near bus stops, to limited lighting at our public parks. Famously, floodlights were only installed at Clapham Common last year following a viral petition from activists Ayesha Alibhai and Safiya Sayani.

Public seating is often few and far between, which forgets the needs of our elderly community or those with small children. As Caroline Criado-Perez tells us in Invisible Women, it’s no surprise we usually make more than one stop on a journey, oftentimes due to unpaid care responsibilities. So why are rural stops and bus timings not designed with this in mind?

If we look at London (although, this is also evident across the UK and not just in the capital) nighttime travel is notoriously poor. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago, the night tube on many lines has closed. This has not only resulted in us adjusting our lives and journeys, but it also negatively impacts those from poorer economic backgrounds. Many can’t afford the rising costs of taxi travel, so resort to walking. And as we know, walking alone at night is unsafe.

So what do you do when you cannot afford the cost of transport? You search ‘basic safety tips you need to know’.

With a lack of thinking around intersectionality in our public environments, we must rally for spaces designed for everyone. This goes beyond rethinking bus routes, more lighting, and introducing pedestrian-only zones - though these are important.

While yes, we do need greener spaces, affordable living for people choosing to live on their own, and safer nighttime travel, we equally need women and representation for all communities and socio-economic backgrounds to have a seat at the decision table and their voices heard.

If you feel affected by the issues discussed in this article, or by any other issue surrounding PSH and Women's Rights, please check out our Support Directory.

For more information on PSH and other topics relating to Women's Rights, check out our social media pages.


  1. Article Cover image and in-article images courtesy of Mia Sale (@shardstudios on IG)


Lucy Gordon (She/Her)

Hello! I’m Lucy, an intersectional feminist passionate about community activism. Working as a senior writer in the public sector for the last four years, I’m delighted to be part of the Our Streets Now team, joining a collection of passionate and truly inspirational people working to create a fairer society for all.


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