Every once in a while you read an article that really challenges long-held assumptions. This one at the 99% Invisible site tells the story of a Swedish town that realized that plowing major roads first, then side streets and sidewalks, actually disadvantaged women in a significant way.
As researchers dove into the subject, however, they discovered that male and female driving patterns were markedly different.
While men mainly commuted to and from work, women drove all over to run errands and to take care of elderly family members. They also walked more, trudging across often-unplowed intersections, sometimes with kids in tow. Aside from health and safety, that labor, when tallied up, was found to be worth almost as much to the economy as paid work.
“This work contributes hugely to GDP,” explains Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, a book about how women are often left out of design.
Changing the priorities to plow side streets and sidewalks first turned out to have great benefits, and didn’t even impede the road users very much.
As is often the case in municipal decision-making, the practice of plowing major streets first seems to be grounded in the time honoured tradition of “because that’s what we’ve always done.”
H/T to Ash Amlani for spotting this one.