RightRides: Providing Safe Rides Home

Joe Veix

A service in Brooklyn provides free rides home, in an effort to combat gender-based harassment and sexual assault.

Anyone who has ever walked home through an eerie part of town can understand how frightening it can be. In September of 2004, Consuelo Ruybal and Oraia Reid responded to the high rate of sexual assault in Brooklyn (in some areas, it had increased as high as 200%, according to their website) by creating RightRides, a service that provides free late night rides home to women in Brooklyn, in an effort to end gender-based harassment and sexual assault. Their SafeWalk program offers escorts to those who don’t want to walk home alone.

The program functions exclusively in Brooklyn, and tries to cater to lower-income neighborhoods with limited public transportation. They are especially helpful considering New York City’s MTA recent approval of enormous fare increases and service cuts.

Their website says,

"Studies show that women and those in the Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer Gender Non Conforming (LBTQGNC) community typically make 5% to 15% less per year that their equally qualified male or heterosexual female counterparts due to bias. This can mean many do not have the extra funds available to take a taxi or a car service, choosing instead to use public transportation and walk home.  Walking home through desolate and/or poorly lit areas late at night increases the chance of being targeted for hate crimes or sexual assault."

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The service has been expanding gradually, starting with a single car and a dispatch cellphone. RightRides now has an agreement with Zipcar and a fleet of six cars. By October of 2008, the organization claims to have driven 1,500 people safely home.

Over at BikeBlogNYC there’s an interview with Leah, a SafeWalk volunteer, who escorts people home on her bike.  Leah says:

"I do remember one woman we walked with from a bar in Greenpoint to her home. She lived farther east in Greenpoint, where it gets very industrial, and there aren’t many people out. She said she never realized how sketchy her neighborhood could feel, but having us walk there with her helped her notice it for the first time."

RightRides is currently seeking volunteers to drive, bike, walk, and work dispatch, and needs donations.

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