Riding the change: Exploring women’s navigation of risk and respectability through two-wheeler mobility in Dhaka

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This paper sheds light on the understudied phenomenon of female two-wheeler riders in Bangladesh, and their everyday negotiations of moto-mobility in patriarchal public spaces. In transportation research, female riders have traditionally been characterized as occupying the pillion seat. By conducting ethnographic observations of two-wheeler training clubs in Bangladesh (Dhaka) and qualitative interviews with female riders, the paper expands the discussion of gender and mobility beyond the usual focus on car and public transport in the Global South, which is critical for planning equitable and inclusive transport policies. Using the motility framework (access, competence and appropriation), this paper unravels the cultural, spatial and social dynamics of women's everyday moto-mobility. Through engagement in women-only training clubs which also serve as gendered social spaces, female riders actively build technical and spatial competence. They opt for safety-conscious approaches in driving behaviour, subverting traditional/masculine notions of dominance and authority. The findings also reveal how young riders subvert families and communities to acquire and ride motorbikes, but still largely conform (and adapt) to social norms to manufacture respectability (following normative sartorial choices, sex-segregated seclusion/purdah). In other words, their resistance is in proportion to how much they can assert themselves without facing negative repercussions from communities and society at large. As their presence and performances of micro-subversions rewrite spatial geographies (of risk and respectability), this has implications for reshaping the everyday transport geographies of women in urban public spaces. By presenting gender scripts as an element of appropriation in the constant negotiation of mobility, this paper contextualises motility in a non-western setting, and shows how multiple (seemingly contradictory) gender performances can feed into each other and regroup to facilitate women's access (to mobility) and rights in a gendered city.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103888
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Dhaka
  • Gendered mobilities
  • Inclusive
  • Respectability
  • Two-wheelers
  • moto-mobility


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