During the social and economic transition process, the urban structure of China's cities has changed dramatically and residents' behavior has become more complicated. Against this background, the space-time behavior approach has become an important perspective through which to understand urban space in China. Space-time fixity and flexibility have been recognized as important concepts in transportation, human geography and feminist geography, as they reflect the space-time constraints and opportunities of people and influence their access and mobility in important ways, but the direct empirical studies to date are far from sufficient. Gender differentiation is a key issue and an important perspective in urban studies. Many studies of Western countries have found that women experience more fixity constraints than men, which leads to lower accessibility to job opportunities. However, gender differences of space-time fixity and flexibility in China, where the different institutional, social, economic and cultural background might lead to different results, are still not clear.
This paper takes temporal and spatial flexibilities as the objects of research, and examines how individual, household and activity attributes impact them from a gender differentiation perspective. Activity-travel diaries and 7-day GPS tracking data of 709 respondents in the Shangdi-Qinghe area of Beijing from a 2012 activity-travel survey are used, and temporal and spatial flexibilities are measured with the respondents' self-reported information. Firstly, we analyze the flexibility levels of individuals' activities by activity type and gender using descriptive statistics. Then, ordered logit models are used to investigate the relationships between space-time flexibility and attributes of individual, household and activity, and how these relationships vary between males and females.
The results show that temporal and spatial flexibility levels vary significantly among different activities, individuals and households, with activity type being a key factor. Chinese females do not perceive significantly stronger fixity constraints than males, as existing empirical studies of Western countries found. In fact, the activities of females are more flexible in China, which reflects different divisions of responsibilities and conceptions of intergenerational assistance in Chinese households. The relationship between temporal flexibility and spatial flexibility is quite complex, and the interaction of the two dimensions of flexibility and its impacts on space-time accessibility needs more attention. This study of space-time flexibility reflects the complexity and potential characteristics of residents' behavior, and helps us get a better understanding of the mechanism of people's decision-making and cities’ operation. It also provides empirical evidence for relevant planning and policy making.