During the Walk21 conference in Kigali, we sat down with Jorge Cáñez, a transport expert from Mexico. He works for the Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) in Los Angeles to create equitable urban spaces and establish the Gender Equity Action Plan for the city. This transformative initiative was sparked by the “Changing Lanes” report from 2021, which shed light on the transit system’s deficiencies in serving women and gender minorities. We discuss the challenges of sustainability, walking conditions, road safety, and gender equity in cities with Jorge.

Changing Lanes

Jorge Cáñez was known as El Peatonito in Mexico, the hero of pedestrians. Before joining KDI in Los Angeles, Jorge pioneered walking, biking, parking, and transit policies in Mexico City. Now, as part of KDI, he is actively involved in envisioning and implementing transportation equity projects, play streets, vacant lot activation, anti-displacement proposals, and environmental justice policies. An important step for the initiative was the Changing Lanes report, which is based on hundreds of surveys: “And surprise, surprise, the transit system is failing women and gender minorities.”, Jorge says. As a result of that survey, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation commissioned him and his team to write the first Gender Equity Action Plan of the city.

 

Jorge points out that transportation systems around the world “have historically been designed around typical male travel patterns and do not prioritize the unique travel patterns of women and gender minorities”. He explains that women travel differently, mostly due to socially constructed gender roles that cause women to be disproportionately responsible for household and care-related responsibilities – the mobility of care.

“Hopefully, one day, gender roles will be more equitable. But what are we going to do meanwhile to acknowledge and tackle the needs of women?”

Transforming Bus Stops for Gender Equity 

Jorge states that Walk 21 is an inspiring conference that feels like a happy place to him. He offered a walk-shop in Kigali to evaluate the design of bus stops, sidewalks, and the first and last mile to transit. The participants examined that many intersections are designed for cars to go fast, while sidewalks and crosswalks could be extended and improved for everyone to feel safer when crossing the street or waiting at a bus stop.

Similarly, in Los Angeles, Jorge has worked with women and leaders from different communities to learn about their needs and priorities.

“First of all, they are transit users. […] We need to bring some dignity to all the low income and people of color, immigrants, that are taking public transit every day.”

A higher frequency of buses is usually a priority, as are shade and light around bus stops. Many bus stops don’t offer enough shelter, which means it can be very uncomfortable to wait for the bus in sunny weather. At night, lights around the bus stop can improve women’sperception of safety. KDI has designed and fabricated a device that provides shade and light to bus riders, which Jorge tested in Kigali.

 

Small Wins, Big Impact: Implementing Change in Los Angeles 

Jorge stresses the importance of small wins in the journey toward transforming transportation systems. These small wins include improving individual bus stops, crosswalks, and intersections. While acknowledging the need for political support, Jorge expressed optimism about the commitment of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to creating a better city through sustained efforts. “Let’s go out to the streets and let’s change our cities to have a better experience, better streets, better transportation, and better cities”, Jorge sums up his vision.

Listen to the full episode in the podcast player below! 

 

 

You can also find Talking Transport Transformation on Podigee, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.

 

 

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