Gastown in Winter

North Vancouver based writer. Seeking: honest politicians; justice and honour; intelligence and humour; corporate integrity. Planning to move to France.

Gastown in Winter

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.


  1. There’s a lot of inherent gender bias in our society’s application of “expertise”; from public works to city planning to medicine. Inherent bias is frustrating but at least understandable. It is simply a thing that humans do. The thing that gets me is when people refuse to act upon – or even acknowledge – their biases when confronted with them. Or worse, blame and lash out at the people who point out those biases.

    1. Women have babies. Men do not. Many career and life style choices flow from that simple fact.

      Shall we force gender equality into hospitals by firing 45% of all (usually female) nurses, midwives or physios so a true 50/50 balance is achieved? Or strictly enforce new hiring rules only? No one is forced to become a trucker, a plumber, an oilfield services worker or even an airline pilot yet there are many more men in those professions than females. Why is that ?

      Speaking of widewalks and bike lanes. What is the gender mix of biking in Vancouver ? I bet it is more male ? Stats ? So if we plow bike lanes now in our (rare) snowy days is that male chauvinism, too ?

          1. No. It was reported to be 37% for female riders in Vancouver cycling to work, in the 2006 census. Expect it to be better than that now.

            What we do know is that poor cycling infrastructure results in a higher gender imbalance. When routes are improved, one measure of success is getting close to a 50% gender balance. This has been studied, comparing before and after, for recent improvements in the City of Vancouver.

            Other countries with more developed cycling infrastructure have representative gender balances for people cycling. Note that it is generally acknowledged that it is the females in those countries that are the ones having the babies, so you can drop that theory.

            So advocating against cycling improvements is a form of gender discrimination.

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