Meet the Women Who Ride at Night

How do we make Wellington’s nights safer for all? The women who ride at night remind us that questions of liveability can’t just stop when the sun goes down.

Vivian Ortiz is one of seven women who will be featured in an upcoming documentary all about women who cycle at night. Her experience has got her thinking about how to get more people, particularly women, to experience their city this way. And it’s got her active in making cycling safer in Boston for all.

Ortiz started biking at night with a friend and just loved it. She found it fun, refreshing and relaxing with the quieter streets and the freedom of the evening. 

But when she looked online, there was very little representation of women night-cycling. Her friends expressed uncertainty over the safety of biking at night too. Ortiz also acknowledges that as a white woman her experience may have been different if she were black or wore a headscarf for instance.  

Part of this highlights a huge blindspot in urban planning. We often talk about transport and liveability in a daytime context. But that means we often overlook nighttime liveability.

Andreina Seijas says combating this is a matter of hardware – eg physical infrastructure, bike racks, lighting – and software – eg, laws, public perceptions, cultural norms. We need to be asking questions to build both hardware and software with nighttime liveability in mind. 

Let’s have a look at central Wellington. We know that the assault rate in Wellington’s city centre is ten times higher than the national average (!). We also know a lot of this is happening around Courtenay Place and Cuba Street, the centre of the city’s nightlife.

In this respect, cycling home after a late dinner with friends would be much safer than, say, walking. So maybe there’s some infrastructure needed to make the city feel safe and easy to bike around no matter the time of day. 

(OK, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get on with it!)

But real change needs that “software” too. There are already some initiatives in place like the Pōneke Promise.

But we could be inspired by what other places are doing to encourage thriving and safe nightlife. Like Sydney’s “night mayor.”  Their role is to encourage Sydney to get out and enjoy its rich night-time culture, and to envision the future of city life after dark.

Making our towns truly feel safer at night will require a lot of work at a lot of different levels. It’ll take infrastructure, government, vulnerable discussions, and social and cultural changes. And it’ll take individuals like Ortiz or even like our very own women’s cycling movement, Frocks on Bikes.

It’s worth all that work though, to let everyone be safe and enjoy their town, even well late into the night.

But hey, let us know what you’re thinking below!

  • How can we make our streets accessible after dark?
  • What could good after-hours transport look like?
  • How do we make cycle paths and footpaths that are practical but still feel fun and safe for all, even at night?

And check out the full article on Women who Ride at Night here!

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