Over half of Irish women avoid public transport after dark

Women feel vulnerable to harassment and assault travelling alone, report states

More than one-quarter of women in Dublin and just under one-fifth of women nationally reported being verbally harassed or made to feel uncomfortable on public transport. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

More than one-quarter of women in Dublin and just under one-fifth of women nationally reported being verbally harassed or made to feel uncomfortable on public transport. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

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Large numbers of Irish women fear for their safety using public transport, cycling or walking alone, according to a report from State transport body Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

More than half of women said they would not use public transport after dark due to safety concerns, with one-third saying “feelings of insecurity” had prevented them from travelling at all, research commissioned by TII has found.

The Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes report found women felt “heavily responsible” for their own safety when travelling and there was “little focus” in society generally on the role men can play in ensuring their safety.

The research, mainly conducted last year after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, comprised of online or phone interviews with 1,000 women and men, in addition to “in-home” interviews with a cross-section of women. It found fears around using buses and trains or other sustainable transport modes were limiting women’s choices and perpetuating “car culture”.

While safety on public transport was an issue for both sexes, the report said “women, and especially women in Dublin, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault”.

More than one-quarter of women in Dublin and just under one-fifth of women nationally reported being verbally harassed or made to feel uncomfortable on public transport. Slightly less than a quarter of Dublin women and 11 per cent nationally had witnessed “violent behaviour” or sexual harassment happening to someone else.

However, reported personal experiences of assault were significantly lower, with 4 per cent of women in Dublin and 3 per cent nationally saying they were the victim of “violent behaviour”; 7 per cent in Dublin and 3 per cent nationally having been the victim of sexual harassment; and 3 per cent in Dublin and just 1 per cent nationally having been the victim of sexual assault on public transport.

Some 55 per cent of women said they would not use public transport after dark and 34 per cent said feelings of insecurity have prevented them from travelling. In many cases, the walk from a stop or station was the primary reason women avoided public transport.

“Whilst unsafe and violent incidents are not an everyday occurrence for most women, they have an outsized impact on a woman’s sense of safety, wellbeing and her travel choices,” the report said. “One bad incident is enough to fundamentally alter a woman’s relationship to transport.”