Recount: A Magazine of Contemporary Politics

Answering the Call

By Christy Boldenow | Dec 13, 2004 Print

Women living in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and on the Lower East Side no longer have to walk home alone. In fact, they don’t have to walk at all—thanks to RightRides, a group working to provide women with safe rides home during the late-night hours.

“We’re not a car service, we’re a transportation alternative,” said Oraia Reid, 27, who recently founded RightRides along with Consuelo Ruybal, 35.

After learning about an increase in rape and other attacks in their Brooklyn neighborhoods in September, Reid and Ruybal began offering rides home for women who couldn’t afford taxis or car services. Now, women wishing to take advantage of their services can simply call a dispatch line and a car will arrive to pick them up within ten minutes. For now, RightRides operates only on Saturday nights between midnight and 4:30 a.m., but Reid and Ruybal hope to extend the hours and service areas in the coming months.

On an average Saturday night, approximately three calls come in per hour, but that can fluctuate. The group’s busiest weekend was Halloween, when 30 women contacted RightRides—a drastic increase from the usual ten.  “It was wonderful because we felt like a lot of people were getting to know about it, Reid said.  She added, however, that “there was no way we could keep up,” and noted that the group hopes to avoid that type of situation in the future. “We never want to be short staffed again,” she said.

Donations are not accepted after a ride, but those wanting to give can do so online. With more volunteers and soon-to-be-acquired non-profit status, RightRides hopes to eventually cover Red Hook, Park Slope, and parts of Queens. If things keep going well, they may start chapters as far as Harlem and the Bronx, according to Reid.

“Word of mouth is a really powerful tool,” said volunteer Sheri Lavigne.  Indeed, that, combined with recent press attention, has kept the RightRides team optimistic about continued growth.

The group also hopes to do more than just drive women around. Along with passing out safety guides for each rider, RightRides also organizes self-defense classes and seminars. “So many people think of Williamsburg and Greenpoint as neighborhoods that you can be safe in,” Reid said. “People don’t realize that this is still New York City, and you need to have your wits about you at all times.” In addition to keeping women safe, the group wants to teach women how to be prepared for potential trouble.

During warmer months, Reid and Ruybal also coordinate the RightRides bike patrol, four-person groups that ride around during operational hours. The group members wear designated vests, hand out the RightRides dispatch number, and keep track of suspicious activity.

Does this labor of love wear them out? Reid, who plays in the political punk band Shellshocked, said that as a musician, she is used to the late hours. “Because doing RightRides is so rewarding and we really are so passionate about doing it, we look forward to Saturdays,” she said. “We feel so good after doing a volunteer shift that we’re excited about the next time we can volunteer.”

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Christy Boldenow can be reached at .

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