Parking decks are often considered particularly unsafe public space. The municipal parking company in Gothenburg decided to address the problem. The company replaced the concrete with glass and improved lighting to make the environment safer.
Research shows that insecurity is the number one factor limiting women’s ability to move around freely in city, implying reduced opportunities for work, entertainment, housing and transportation.
This applies not only to parking decks with pillars, dark corners, naked concrete, poor lighting and windowless walls. Stairwells and lifts are often tucked away out of sight, and unpleasant encounters may be difficult to predict and prepare for. There are few ways to escape and often, there is no one else around. Customer surveys in many cities have shown that fewer women than men use the parking decks.
‘A car-park company cannot solve the underlying problem, which is men’s violence against women. But we can take measures to reduce people’s insecurity.’
‘A car-park company cannot solve the underlying problem, which is men’s violence against women. But we can take many measures to reduce people’s insecurity,’ says Jonas Nilsson, who works for the municipal parking company Göteborg Stads Parkerings AB and is in charge of parking security from a gender perspective.
Improved security in and around the parking decks gives more women accessibility to these spaces, which in turn increases the number of regular and happy customers. Security and gender equality have; therefore, been integrated into the company’s business plan.
Changes started with gathering information about car park design and how it is linked to security and gender equality. The next task was to create an assessment template for parking decks.
The template had five themes: internal environment, external environment, surrounding environment, maintenance and physical planning. The template is used in assessments of already existing parking facilities but can also be used to inform the planning of new car parks. The template was tested on a number of car parks in Gothenburg with positive results.
A certain type of value map resembling the shape of a rose – therefore called ‘value rose’ in Swedish – was used to compare security factors and weaknesses between the city’s different car parks. The map was based on the assessment template’s five themes, and was meant to help the company identify the most appropriate courses of action.
The method was tested on a select number of car parks and has already led to significant improvements.
Focus on the External Environment
Several studies have shown how the inside of a multi-story car park should be designed to provide security. The outside of the buildings and the surrounding environment, however, have not received nearly the same attention. This is surprising considering that these areas are at least as important in a security perspective and are also often not as well maintained.
If the street outside the car park is unsafe, people may be hesitant to use it regardless of how nice it is inside.
In order to improve the security outside the company’s car parks, it needed to approach the actors in charge of the surrounding areas. After all, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a car park company to change the lighting and trim hedges on somebody else’s property.
‘Together we will be able to give the citizens security across the entire city.’
‘The outside of a car park is usually the responsibility of somebody else, such as a different city department. We are right now trying to find joint solutions with the other municipal actors involved, so that together we will be able to give the citizens security across the entire city,’ says Nilsson.
Gender Equality Becoming Standard Practice
The new way of thinking is becoming increasingly natural within the organisation. Today the staff think of security and gender equality as obvious aspects of their work at the company. Nilsson gives an example:
‘Some time ago, an external consultant from Landskapsgruppen did a field study of one of our car parks and wrote a report about things we should do, like clean up outside. Without knowing anything about the report, somebody from the city went out and did exactly what it said should be done. When Roland Ahlgren from Landskapsgruppen presented the report, we told him to go have another look at the place. He found that most of the stuff had already been done and started laughing.’