The scientific research project “STEP UP – Walkability for Women in Milan” (Grant No. 2022-1643), submitted under the call for proposals “INEQUALITIES RESEARCH – Generating new knowledge to reduce inequalities” and awarded by Fondazione Cariplo, focuses on the needs and expectations of women while walking. Transform Transport will be coordinating STEP UP for 12 months in collaboration with TeMA Lab – Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Sex and the City, and Walk21 Foundation.

Gender Inclusion in Transport Planning

Advanced urban and transport planning activities are shifting towards sustainable urban mobility solutions and walkability,  referring to how friendly the urban environment is for walking in terms of proximity service availability, street connectivity, the comfort of public spaces, and road safety. 

Although traditional approaches tend to focus on the spatial dimension of cities, individual characteristics of users are found to have a significant impact on the perceived level of walkability of streets and public spaces (e.g., demographics, travel purposes, mobility preferences, etc.). In particular, the current measures in place do not sufficiently consider population groups in vulnerable situations (i.e. SDG 11.2-Sustainable Transport for All), including women.

Women experience the city differently than men, in part because they are more concerned about security issues related to aggression and harassment. These concerns take the form of precautionary or avoidant behaviors due to fear of violence, perception of risk, and a sense of vulnerability, which are major mobility obstacles especially during the nighttime.

In order to identify the main factors influencing perceptions of safety while walking for women, a scoping review was conducted on some of the most relevant scientific contributions and policy guidelines about the topic. The first part of the review focused on findings from 23 scientific references revolving around the keywords gender, safety and walkability. This led to the establishment of three main Safety Factors – Level 1 (SF_L1): (i) Spatial Features (space characteristics/ morphological features); (ii) City Use (traces of behavior and presence of other city users); and (iii) Hotspots (safe havens and no-go areas); further resulting in 19 sub-factors or Safety Factors – Level 2 (SF_L2). The second part of the review covered a collection of 20 reports and 10 guideline documents focused on diverse geographical scales, areas of interest, and target audiences, as well as data collection methods for reports that contained an original study on the thematic topics of safety and walkability for women. The documents were also used to extract relevant case studies, which are also presented, maintaining a geographically diverse sample.

The results of the proposed thematic review have been published in the scientific Journal Sustainability:  Scarponi, L., Abdelfattah, L., Gorrini, A., Cortés, C. V., Carpentieri, G., Guida, C., Zucaro, F., Andreola, F., Muzzonigro, A., Da Re, L., Gargiulo, E., Cañas, C., Walker, J., & Choubassi, R. (2023). Thematic Review on Women’s Perception of Safety While Walking in Public Space: The STEP UP Project. Sustainability, 15(21), 15636.

Scope and Methodology of the Research 

Taking these challenges into consideration, STEP UP aims to assess the level of walkability for women focusing on the case study of Milan, Italy, in particular on the factor of the perception of safety as a factor influencing walkability. First, a thematic literature review has been conducted on the most relevant scientific contributions and policy guidelines about the topic. The results of the literature review will then be exploited to select a series of relevant geolocated datasets, which will be retrieved, sorted, and filtered from open data repositories and geoportals. Data regarding the perceived level of security of women while walking will be collected through ‘Wher’ – a safety reporting navigation app operated by Walk21 Foundation. All these gender-disaggregated data sets will be analyzed through GIS-Geographic Information Systems to design a multi-layered map of Milan focused on the walkability criterion of safety, which will be then validated through survey questionnaires and focus groups.

The survey questionnaire, which targets people of all genders and backgrounds who are living or frequently visiting the city of Milan is currently open and can be accessed both in english and italian at the following links:

STEP UP – How do you feel while walking at night in the streets of Milan?

STEP UP – Come ti senti a camminare di notte nelle strade di Milano?

The data collected through the questionnaire will be processed in accordance with the GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation (EU, 2016/679) and the Italian Data Protection Act 2018 n. 101. Full information and consent options for data processing are provided at the link.

The project results will help identify challenging areas or neighborhoods in the city of Milan, which can serve as the analytical testbed to develop a set of policy recommendations aimed at enhancing the level of walkability for women in cities. In particular, the collected disaggregated data will be used to support the definition of guidelines and policies for the design of future transport services, focusing on the impact of individual characteristics of pedestrians in relation to their gender on the perceived level of walkability. In the event of the identification of distinct problematic areas or zones, the project outcome will also highlight potential physical interventions via tactical urbanism approaches in public spaces.

STEP UP Materials

See below the brochure of STEP UP, offering a general overview about the project and its main objectives.
Download Brochure

The STEP UP project is funded by Fondazione Cariplo under the grant agreement No. 2022-1643. This website reflects only the author’s view and Fondazione Cariplo is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.


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