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At AECOM, we believe infrastructure creates opportunity for everyone.

Innovation & Digital

Our technical experts and visionaries harness the power of technology to deliver transformative outcomes.


Creating inclusive cities that work better for everyone

Adrian Barritt Principal Transport Planner, Sydney

Cities are contested spaces that serve the diverse wants and needs of our communities – or at least they should do.

Depending on who you are, travelling around cities can be stressful and sometimes unsafe. This is especially the case for women, older people, and people with disabilities. We know this because:

  • One in four women in Australia will not walk alone in her local neighbourhood after dark, compared to only 4% of men. 1
  • Over half of people aged 65 and over in Adelaide have a condition that affects them using public transport. 2

  • 1 in 6 (17%) people in Australia aged 15 and over with disability have difficulty using public transport. 3

A lack of safety and amenity affects travel behaviour, limiting the liveability of communities. For example, when places are not safe for women, they will take longer routes, only travel with others, leave earlier or avoid the journey altogether. Not creating places where women, older people and people with disabilities feel safe and comfortable, impacts how people participate and contribute to the social, economic, and cultural vitality of our cities.

What are we doing? As planners and designers, we have a duty to focus our projects on the vision and outcomes outlined in government strategy and policy. And undoubtedly, improving safety is a critical component this – but is our current focus on safety enabling cities to offer inclusive mobility?

Safety and amenity – for who?

When we sit down and talk about improving safety outcomes on our transport projects and programs, our discussions – and targets – might often lean towards improving ‘road safety’ – that being reducing the number of road fatalities and serious injuries. This is a credible and warranted target. However, we don’t often acknowledge and design for the everyday safety and amenity concerns of the different people moving around cities.

This is crucially important as the IPSOS ‘Life In Australia’ Report 2022 4 reveals that ‘feeling safe’ is the top attribute which people in Australia believe makes somewhere a good place to live. Despite this, people in metropolitan Australia scored the performance of their local areas as 6.7 out of 10 for safety. Similarly, the relative ease at which Australians can get to and from services in their local areas was scored 6.4 out of 10. Surely, we can do better…

These two attribute scores, being safety and ease of access, demonstrate that significant improvement is required to make our cities more inclusive, and work better for everyone.

Tackling this may mean making difficult choices as our cities are contested spaces, but the unintended consequences of not designing places and services for the diverse needs of our communities limit the social and economic benefits our investments can provide.

Therefore, the challenge to us all is to consider the experiences of others when planning, designing and delivering projects, and to ensure that we are champions of safety and amenity that represent the diverse wants and needs of our communities. There is no stand-alone fix-all solution, but there are simple things we can and should do.

As we continue to plan and design our growing cities, we need to encourage and empower vulnerable groups and minority groups as co-designers to understand their end user experience and challenge standard solutions. It may be tricky to initially introduce, but one effective method of implementing this is through accessibility audits, from project inception through to construction, completion and beyond.

But there are so many potential ways we create inclusive cities that work better for everyone. And it begins by being inquisitive, and considering living, working, and playing in the city through the lens of all of us, rather than through fixed mindsets, following the minimum requirements of a rulebook.


1 Personal Safety Survey, Australia 2016 (

2 Key transport and mobility issues facing seniors: Evidence from Adelaide (

3 People with disability in Australia 2020 (

4 Life In Australia 2022 - Understanding liveability across metropolitan Australia (

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