What Makes Women Feel Safe in Public Space?

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What Makes A City Safe?

Women In Cities International reached out to women living in different cities and from all walks of life to understand the necessary components that go into making a city safe, inviting, and accessible. Here are their answers:


Having lived in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Toronto I have come to know the aspects of city planning, transportation, and infrastructure that puts me at ease vs. makes me very uncomfortable and on edge regarding my safety. The biggest things I have noticed about ensuring public spaces feel safe is that they have clearly marked exits, are well lit and clean, have access to phone service or wifi connection. As a woman, I do not feel safe when spaces, such as subway stops, require you to pass through dark corridors or be without phone connection. I generally feel safer when there are more people around me, especially other women and families. A public space feels welcoming to me when it is accessible to all, accommodates and encourages diversity, and allows for individuals to go about their daily lives without being uncomfortable or afraid of harm.

Natasha, Toronto Canada


A safe city is socially connected, inclusive and accessible. It encourages place-making and engagement with its diverse population!

Leni, Vancouver Canada


[A safe city] Is the one that offers a space with equal access and opportunities to everyone and takes into consideration participation of women and girls.

Lucía, Montreal Canada and Mexico City Mexico


Rather than say which spaces I feel safest in, I think I’ll highlight the kinds of interactions that I encounter that make me not only feel safe, but feel included and positive. It makes me feel safe when men say “hey sister” rather than “hey sexy.” It makes me feel good when men say “hope you have a great day” rather than “smile more.” It makes me feel included when I see the familiar faces of strangers who say “good morning” or just exchange a nod, a smile or a wave.

Shannon, San Francisco U.S.A


Lighting is key, street lighting that is. A street, a block or an area that is poorly light can make everything seem a lot more eerie and feel extremely unwelcoming. Bringing light to these darks areas can make people, but particularly women, feel a lot more at ease knowing nothing is hiding in the shadows.

Alexandria, Ottawa Canada


Parks, trails, and recreation areas should be well lit and accessible so women can use a city’s green spaces safely.

Margaret, Toronto Canada

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Other people using the street, a diversity of users and public spaces that feel cared for, small details like flowers and colours, children playing, terrace seating and other seating and route options are things that make safe cities for women and girls in my opinion.

Kathryn, Montreal Canada


Good street lighting and crowded (but not over-crowded) public spaces make me feel safer. Street art and greenery in public spaces make me feel more welcome, as do benches and food stalls.

ParCitypatory Blog, Manchester United Kingdom and Hamburg Germany


Cities are fascinating places. For me, they are stage for the activities of our daily lives. Most of our everyday routines: travel, our work, school, hobbies – takes place in city streets, its in public or private spaces, articulated by its form and composition. So then, what is a safe city? It’s a stage that’s flat, with no stairs, no physical barriers to accessing it. It’s universally accessible to all. It’s a stage where the discourse of all the actors is based on mutual respect, inclusion and equality. Its’ social environment is not indifferent to acts of discrimination, harassment and violence. The set of the stage is built with the participation of all actors, where no singular voice dominates the process. Its’ built environment brings to life the diverse perspectives, and answers the needs of all actors, in a democratic way. It may take long to build the set, and the actors will need lots of rehearsal (and patience, and understanding) before they get it right, but when it all comes together, we can start to live, and witness, a safe stage – a safe city – for all

Miranda, Montreal Canada

What Makes Women Feel Safe in Public Space?