downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 44 | March 16 - 22, 2007

Saturday night group expanding safe rides Downtown

Their motto is “Because getting home safely shouldn’t be a luxury.”

For more than two years, the non-profit group RightRides for Women’s Safety out of Brooklyn has been giving free rides to women who feel unsafe traveling home alone, and they’re about to expand their services to the rest of Lower Manhattan: Downtown’s West Side, from the Battery to 23rd St., and the neighborhoods south of Chinatown.

RightRides was founded by friends Consuelo Ruybal and Oraia Reid, in response to a series of sexual assaults against females in Williamsburg during the summer of 2004. Their drivers have since given safe rides to more than 700 women and transgenders, and they hope to double that number in the coming year. They also hope to increase the number of days of operation, as the service is currently available only in the wee hours after Saturday nights, from midnight to 3 a.m.

The way the service works is that any woman in an area RightRides covers can call for a ride, and will then be picked up in 20 minutes or less. They are driven home by a pair of volunteers, made up of a driver and a navigator, one of whom is always female. The drivers will then wait to see that the caller gets safely inside her apartment.

As a survivor of an attack herself, Reid said, “We like to see people walk in their door and turn around and wave that everything is okay,” since many reported incidents occurred when women were pushed into their buildings and assaulted by assailants waiting by the door.

Reid, who is also executive director of the program, said, “Right now we have around 100 volunteers with three cars in 19 neighborhoods.” That includes 15 Brooklyn neighborhoods, one in Queens and Manhattan’s East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Reid said the West Side and south of Chinatown was chosen as part of the expansion after hearing reports of several incidents in the area. She hopes RightRides begins serving all of Lower Manhattan by May, but said they still need more volunteers before they can expand there and other parts of the city.

The group is in operation thanks, Reid said, to the generosity of Zipcar, an hourly car rental service that provides vehicles for the program free of charge. Zipcar started by donating three cars and are now offering a total of six, which Reid says will be in use by June.

Though RightRides remains exclusive to females and transgenders, Reid said they have received calls from males who had been jumped or robbed and were uncomfortable walking alone. The group also has a Safe Walk program, where volunteers ride bicycles to meet callers and walk them home.

For more information on which neighborhoods RightRides or Safe Walk serves, and on how to volunteer or donate to the organization, visit their Web site at www.rightrides.org.

—Brooke Edwards





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