Public Transport Lab addresses sexual harassment on Public Transport

In conjunction with POLIS’ Safety & Security working group, the Public Transport Lab webinar explored Sexual Harassment on Public Transport.

Study after study in almost every city across the globe echo the same findings. Harassment, particularly sexual harassment, is a significant concern for women using public transport, and one of the main factors deterring their use of transit networks.

YouGov research revealed that over a third (39%) of Londoners have been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour while traveling on public transport, while Catalonia’s 2020 study put this figure nearer 65%.

Ensuring women’s security on public transport is not an issue on which cities and their operating partners can drag their feet. This is not just a question of basic human rights; women make up (more than) 50% of users, yet surveys reveal 40% avoid transit options out of fear of sexual harassment (for context, just 9% blamed fear of terrorist attack). Research in the UK shows that the number of public transport users would increase by 10 per cent if passengers, especially women, felt safer; put bluntly, if operators want to recoup dwindling profits and cities are serious about hitting modal shift targets, they need to put females first.

This POLIS members only webinar and working group meeting brought together Catalonia, Transport for London and the Rail Delivery Group to share the main challenges for securing women’s travel, and reported on concrete action being taken.

How do we know what works? Well, cities and regions across Europe- and the globe- have been testing a range of solutions. From reporting mechanisms to infrastructural design adaptations, actions from our cities are proving that gender equality is not all podium promises, flowery academic prose and distant deadlines, it is direct and impactful operations which create immediate changes in women’s mobility.

The full report will appear in the next issue of Thinking Cities magazine during the POLIS Annual Conference, where we will provide a comprehensive toolkit for change, drawing on these insights and more.

You can read the previous Thinking Cities article on this topic here: SAFETY FOR WOMEN - Transport Safety & Security - Thinking Cities June 2021 (


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