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AECOMs Safe Places initiative helps forge more inclusive spaces

AECOM's Safe Places initiative helps forge more inclusive spaces

 March 03, 2023

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AECOM is marking International Women's Day by sharing how the company is supporting the IWD 2023 theme #EmbraceEquity through its work - and is shining a spotlight on its Safe Places Initiative as the company maps perceptions of safety to help forge more inclusive spaces across Australia and New Zealand.

AECOM Senior Engineer in the Highways team for Sydney Australia, Janice Lovelock, and AECOM Transport Policy Advisor & Associate Director in Transport Planning for Sydney Australia, Nicole Badstuber, discuss how digital engagement supports equitable and safe experiences in public space.

Making spaces inclusive and safe for all

As AECOM designs and delivers urban spaces around the world, the company is committed to making those spaces inclusive and safe, meeting the needs of all users. That’s a mission AECOM shares with the Greater Sydney Commission, that seeks to remove significant safety barriers that women and gender-diverse people can face when accessing public spaces.

"These safety barriers are stark—and widely quantified. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates one in four women did not walk in their local area alone after dark in the last 12 months because they felt unsafe. Only one in 24 men, though, reported the same," comment Janice and Nicole.

"In 2020, the Greater Sydney Commission launched the Women’s Safety Charter to improve the safety of women and girls in Greater Sydney. As a founding member of the Charter, we undertook research in the State of New South Wales to assess perceptions of safety in public spaces across the state. This expanded to become our Safe Places Initiative, which now has a national scope," they add.

A more safe and informed community

Safe Places uses interactive mapping to crowd-source geolocated data, identifying where people travel and whether they feel safe or unsafe. The survey also captures optional questions on personal identity so perceived safety can also be correlated to identity factors, such as age, gender identity or disability.

"We are engaging our national 4500-strong team and the broader community to pin the location of perceived safe and unsafe places, and input supporting information through PlanEngageTM, our digital community engagement tool," explain says Janice and Nicole.

Users of Plan Engage can search for their location and drop a pin to log their feedback on their surroundings. Anyone can comment on community posts, informing dialogue for a safer, more informed community. Since its launch, users have placed hundreds of pins in Greater Sydney, and many more across Australia and New Zealand. And those pins can be viewed here.

Hearing the voice of community members to counter inequality

Data collection is just the first step of the initiative. AECOM's urban design and transport planning specialists would then analyse this crowd-sourced data, including lighting, line of sight, foot traffic, maintenance, and passive surveillance information.

They will use the findings to get a perception of how Safety is perceived by informing recommendations and developing best practices to improve how spaces are designed or retrofitted to improve public safety.

Women and gender-diverse people face real and measurable inequities in cities. But for too long, those inequities have been sidelined. The solution, then, is to listen.

"Our Safe Places initiative is one way we’re giving these community members a voice through our work. By amplifying perspectives for all to see, it’s helping counter inequities and create more inclusive spaces in Sydney and beyond," conclude Janice and Nicole.

Learn more about AECOM's Safe Places initiative.

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