Gender equality at local level

Parking garage and gender equality

From the parking in debt up to garage that makes a profit

Many will wonder what the connection is between the parking space (garage) and gender equality. Someone may conclude that there is not, but practice tells us otherwise.

Public spaces belong to everyone: equally to women and men, and it is not in dispute. This statement, however, leads us to another question: do the members of both genders use public spaces equally in practice? And, secondly, do the men and women feel equally safe using various public spaces?

The answer to the above questions gives us the Swedish city of Umeå and experience this city has. The example from Sweden shows how public parking and parking management is sensitive to the issue of gender and how these problems can be overcome.

We believe that this is a very important subject, and the first "success story" is dedicated to the implementation of the principle of gender equality in everyday life.

Parking management and gender equality

Gender equality assumes that there are equal opportunities for men and women to contribute to the cultural, political, economic and social progress, and to have the same opportunities to enjoy all the benefits of the progress of a community.

When we talk about the introduction of the principle of gender equality in public policy and public sector activities, it is important to understand that this is not an isolated activity. Public parking (garage) management involves the creation and implementation of policies and activities with inevitable respect to gender component.

The application of gender analysis and changes in Nanna car parking functioning, Umeå, northern Sweden

The city authorities of Umeå brought in 1998 a decision that all public companies must improve their work in the field of gender equality. Among them was UPAB, a public company responsible for public parking, which had under its jurisdiction the Nanna car parking, concrete garage which was located in an unsafe environment. To city officials it was clear that such public parking does not meet the basic requirements, including a major – to equally "belong" to all citizens. And while this public garage operated with losses, there were many illegally parked cars parked nearby, whose owners decided that they would rather pay fines for illegal parking, than to use a public space dedicated to this purpose.

As they noted these irregularities, UPAB company conducted a gender analysis titled "3R" (Representation, Resources, Realia). Here is what their interests were, when it comes to these principles:

1. Representation

The following questions were asked: Who are the users of the parking and what are their attitudes? How many women and how many men use parking? How old are the users parking?

Actual and potential users of the parking completed a questionnaire which was to answer the following questions: who uses the parking and in what time / time of day? Who parks cars illegally near this garage? Do you have any comments on the work of the garage? Whether and who pays a permanent parking license? Are they interested in longer intervals of parking?

2. Resources

In the next phase of the research, the questions that were asked by the representatives of UPAB company were: how much of the company resources are devoted to this garage? Who has the power and influence in the planning of spending? How the time as a resource is spent? What problems of users are important to employees? To which clients or customers they pay more attention: business customers, men / women, young / old? To whom employees devote more time and whether there is a difference in their commitment?

3. Reality

After the steps that are listed under points 1 and 2, the competent visited the parking lot and checked the following:

What is it like to be a woman / man in this environment?

What is it like to be a woman / man with small children in this environment?

What is it like to be an old woman / man in this environment?

What is it like to have an elderly companion or person with disability in this environment?

Does this environment seem safe?

Some conclusions of the analysis conducted were: ramp between the levels of the parking have a steep slope, so it is difficult and dangerous if you move with a child in baby stroller or use a wheelchair. If you are a pedestrian, you are forced to walk on the lane where cars go on your way to your car, or from the car to the exit from the parking lot. Parking produces a false sense of security because it is "inside". The grey concrete creates an impression of anxiety and darkness. Then, the lighting is wrong: it should be in the corners and where the cars are parked and not in the middle of lanes used by cars. The stairway outside the building is dark, produces a sense of restriction and discomfort, and there is no clear indication for the elevators.


After the analysis, UPAB has invested one million Swedish crowns (about 100,000 euros) in the reconstruction and improvement of the functioning of the parking lot. The goal was to create a sense of security and comfort in the building, and the newly introduced changes were intended for everyone: men and women, younger and older users of the parking, people with disabilities, and people with young children.

The most significant changes included the following improvements: improved lighting throughout the garage and enabling more natural light; stairway is "open" and covered with glass walls (so that the parking stairway is visible to customers from all sides). In addition, there is also video surveillance.

After this reconstruction of the public parking garage, the attitudes of customers have changed to great extent, and parking began to make profits. The drivers additionally appreciated the fact that they were asked, and their proposals were accepted, and the company has significantly improved its image in the public.

Umeå, a city dedicated to gender equality

There are also several examples of reconstruction of buildings in this city. They are all made in the same way: so-called 3R analysis of the problem was conducted, and then the changes were made. And they all had the same goal: the public spaces should be equally available to women and men.

Now the city officials take care that the objects are equally adapted to men and women, boys and girls even during the designing so that they would not spend additional funds later for their reconstruction.

Strategic approach to the implementation of gender equality principles in everyday life, isn’t it?


Text prepared by Rozeta Aleksov, Coordinator of the Component "Gender Equality at the Local Level" under the programme "Support to Local Governments in Serbia in the EU Integration Process", in collaboration with Linda Gustafsson, who is in charge for gender equality in Umeå.