Glasgow councillor says she was spat on as she waited for subway, as feminist planning strategy approved

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A councillor has revealed she was once spat on by a man as she waited for the Subway, as she argued there is a need for change in the way the city was planned.

Glasgow will be the first UK city to take a ‘feminist approach’ to town planning after the council backed a motion by Cllr Holly Bruce, Greens, which said women must be central to planning and public realm design to ensure spaces are safe.

The approach could include widening pavements to accommodate buggies, safe active travel routes, adequate lighting infrastructure, integrated, accessible and affordable transport, better pathway maintenance and more public toilets.

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Cllr Lana Reid-McConnell supported her Green colleague’s motion and said: “Every single woman you know will have felt unsafe on public transport, walking through a quiet park, walking along a dark street at night, being in a bar, at work, any area within the public realm.”

Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.
Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council. | JC

She revealed how, around five years ago, she was spat on by a man at St Enoch’s Subway station. “All of a sudden I feel a presence pass me by and the whole right side of my face and down my neck is soaking wet,” Cllr Reid-McConnell said.

The councillor said she had to run away from the man and nobody on the platform intervened. She talked of her fear when it appeared the man would board the Subway.

“I’m thinking ‘I’m stuck here, I can’t even run to the next one [carriage], we’ve got no phone signal and clearly no one willing to step in’,” she explained. “But the doors shut in front of the man, perhaps he had never intended to get on the carriage and intimidation was enough.”

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Cllr Reid-McConnell said she phoned the police and two male officers took a statement. “I tell them the story, asking if they will send someone to the station to check if this is still happening to others.

“The outcome is no, they make out the man probably just sneezed on me. I even felt they were taking some pleasure out of trying to pick apart my story.

“A few weeks later, I get a call from the police, they say they got the video footage and it shows that my story was exactly as I told it. They also let me know another woman outside St Enoch Centre reported a very similar incident.”

She added: “This is very much on the less dangerous scale by which the police often do not serve as community protectors. Bad encounters with the police are all too familiar for too many people.

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“Without community protectors that function equally, it is even more important that our public realm by design is safe and accessible for all.”

Cllr Bruce said research has shown that “towns, cities and urban spaces were built by men and for men”. “It is unsurprising that decisions on planning and budgets that have been made in political spaces and council offices do not reflect the everyday interactions of the very diverse public.”

She added women and those of marginalised genders have a “right to not only exist but to flourish” in Glasgow.

“Women must be able to freely occupy public spaces without fear. As it stands we are socialised not to take up space, to adapt our behaviour due to our socially conditioned vulnerability.”

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The motion called on officials to consider how the council can include the feminist town planning approach in policies, incorporate gender competence training for council bosses and ensure “gender perspectives are integrated into all stages of the budget process”.

It passed with an amendment from the SNP group. Cllr Kenny McLean, convener for public realm, said the approach should be considered in the city’s new development plan.

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