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Women generate less travel-related carbon than men, study finds

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A study looking at the travel patterns of New Zealand inhabitants has found that woman typically use more diverse modes of transport and generate lower greenhouse gas emissions overall than men.

A team from the University of Otago, Wellington, studied the transport patterns of almost 50,000 people between 2002 and 2014 based on data from the New Zealand Household Travel Survey.

They found distinct patterns of travel linked to gender and while fewer women regularly cycled (2 per cent) compared to men (5 per cent), they travelled shorter distances overall.

“Women took more trips, but travelled between 12 and 17 per cent fewer kilometres per day and were more likely to walk and use public transport than men,” said lead researcher Dr Caroline Shaw. “Thus, women overall had a more diverse and lower greenhouse gas emission travel profile than men.”

Women also undertook more car trips of less than five kilometres each day than men; journeys that could potentially be done by bike.

The research focused on New Zealanders who cycled for utility or transport reasons. The most common reasons for travel were to accompany others, go shopping or make social visits. In general, men took fewer trips for the purpose of accompanying others and made fewer shopping trips.

“We found differences in mode for trips for the same purpose by gender. For example, shopping trips undertaken by men in New Zealand are much more likely to be done using a car than those by women,” Shaw said.

She believes there is “significant potential” to support increased cycling among women in New Zealand, based both on their propensity for using low greenhouse gas emission travel modes - the number of short trips taken by women that could be replaced by biking or walking - and on evidence from overseas countries which have high numbers of cyclists, where women take half or more of their trips by bike.

“Women are already more flexible and lower carbon travellers than men. We need to provide them with better opportunities and support to do more of this type of travel,” she said.

The researchers believe that specific changes in cycling infrastructure are needed to encourage women to cycle more on routes between their homes and the shops and to travel safely in the company of others.

“These would likely require whole street/suburb changes to make them safer and more attractive to walk and cycle for the whole family and be relevant for the places that women travel between, such as shops, schools and libraries, as well as workplaces,” Shaw said.

“These are changes that require a much greater emphasis on what is local to where people live, to facilitate activities that might be regarded as mundane.”

She added that policies also need to focus on how to get more men to use cycling and public transport for routine commuting.

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