Volume 76, Number 45 | April 4 - 10, 2007

Saturday night group expanding safe rides Downtown

By Brooke Edwards

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

For more than two years, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit group RightRides for Women’s Safety has been giving free rides to women who feel unsafe traveling home alone. Now, they’re about to expand their services to the rest of Lower Manhattan, including the Lower West Side, from the Battery to 23rd St., and the area 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 transgender persons, and they hope to double that number in the coming year. They also hope to increase the number of days of operation, since the service is currently available only in the early-morning hours after Saturday night, 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 wait to see that the caller gets safely inside her apartment.

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 O.K.,” since many reported incidents have 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 the East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Reid said the West Side and neighborhood south of Chinatown were chosen as part of the expansion after 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.

Reid said the group is in operation thanks to the generosity of Zipcar, an hourly car rental service that provides vehicles for the program free of charge.

Though RightRides remains exclusive to females and transgender persons, Reid said they have received calls from males who have been jumped or robbed and were uncomfortable walking alone. The group also has a Safe Walk program, in which 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, www.rightrides.org. To get a ride home, call 718-964-7781.


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