TIME OUT NEW YORK
- Issue No. 472 (OCT 14-21)
A new free service helps women get home safely
By Colleen Kane
For many women who can't afford a cab after a night of partying or working
a late shift, the dreaded wait for the subway or a long walk home is not
only a drag, but potentially dangerous. A new Brooklyn-based organization
called RightRides is here to change that, offering women free rides home
from areas with large nocturnal populations: the East Village, the Lower
East Side, Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
outfit was created in August by Oraia Reid and her partner Consuelo Ruybal
in response to hearing about a growing number of violent attacks targeting
women who were walking by themselves very late at night in Williamsburg
and Greenpoint. After an informal e-mail survey they sent out to gauge
public interest garnered nearly 100 responses, they saw a clear demand
so the two bought a dispatch phone, made informational flyers, put out
a call to action for other organizers and began holding meetings.
Now, from midnight
until 4:30am on Saturday nights, RightRides brings women home to locations
in the pickup neighborhoods as well as throughout the rest of Northwest
Brooklyn, and there are plans to expand into other areas, as well as to
increase the nights of service. To catch a ride, women (and transfolk)
call a dispatcher and give their location, their destination and a call
back number. The dispatcher then lets the rider know how soon she can
expect the arrival of her driver-and-navigator duo -- at least one of
whom will be female. When we tried the service recently, the wait was
less than ten minutes.
So far, the organization
has only one vehicle, though Reid and Ruybal are hoping to attract volunteer
drivers with valid licenses and street-legal vehicles. And when bike owners
offered their service, RightRides came up with a way to use them: Four
person bike teams will patrol, spread the word and approach people who
might need rides or escorts home. The two-wheeled patrollers will be trained
in self-defense and outfitted with maps, a first aid kit and pepper spray.
One woman who joined
a bike team, Tiara Jewel, had been mugged and kept hearing other women
who had been attacked in Brooklyn, so not long after she received the
RightRides survey, she signed on a s volunteer. She also recently used
the service for the first time to get home from a party in East Williamsburg
-- the area where she was attacked "I knew that I could stay out
as long as I wanted because I had the service," she says. "It
definitely felt a lot more comfortable to be in the car with two women,
since I've had experiences with cab drivers sexually harassing me."
Another recent RightRides
user, "Elizabeth," heard about several violent incidents on
her street occurring over the span of a few weeks. So when she learned
of RightRides from an online posting, she and her roommate decided to
give it a try. When the RightRides SUV brought them to their apartment,
about 30 young men were loitering outside the building, so Reid and Ruybal
walked the women to their door. "We were all the more glad they were
with us," says Elizabeth, a three-year-resident of East Williamsburg
who is now moving because of the increase in crime.
RightRides only offers
rides for women, who are more at risk for violent attacks than men. And,
since the median annual income for women in NYC is nearly $4,500 less
than their male counterparts, they're also less likely to have money to
spare for a cab. With its weekend hours and bar-heavy pick-up neighborhoods,
late-night revelers will surely make up a lot of RightRides business.
Still, Reid says, "ultimately, we want to also be able to take home
the late-night worker who just got off her shift and needs to get home
ten blocks for the subway station." Both women are adamant that RightRides
is for taking people home, not party-or bar-hopping.
Drivers don't accept
money when dropping someone off, although donations are welcome via the
website. Reid and Ruybal have applied for nonprofit status, and they hope
to eventually raise enough grant money for a fleet of five cars and a
storefront, where they envision ladies relaxing and having a snack while
waiting for their rides. Until then, they're going to raise funds the
old-fashion grassroots ways -- with auctions and benefit shows, like their
first one on October 7th at Northsix, which brought in enough funds to
help offset the costs of gas, a CB radio dispatch system and non-profit
Once all the goals
are realized for NYC's RightRides, its founds want to have chapters in
every major US. city. Reid says, "We're consumed with making RightRides
happen! We are definitely shooting for the top."
For more information
or to volunteer, visit www.rightrides.org. For a RightRides ride, call
718-964-7781 Saturday nights midnight-4:30am.
New York Edition - Weekend, October 29-31, 2004
Free car service helps women get home safely on weekends
Car service promotes safety in Brooklyn neighborhoods.
By Amy Zimmer
BROOKLYN - Troubled
by a perceived increase of late night attacks on women walking in Greenpoint
and Williamsburg, two Brooklyn-based women hatched a plan to promote safety.
Oraia Reid, 27 and
Consuelo Ruybal, 35, formed RightRides, a free car service to transport
women home from subway stations and bars in North Brooklyn as well as
the Lower East Side and the East Village. Saturday night test runs from
12 to 4:30 a.m. began in September. Reid and Ruybal are adding two more
cars to their fleet starting November.
The catalyst for RightRides was an incident in early August when two men
abducted a woman walking home from Trash bar in Williamsburg. They drove
her to Queens, forced her to withdraw $800 from an ATM, then raped her.
After people began
talking about this incident on an events listserve, Reid said, reports
from other women began snowballing.
"It seemed like
a lot of women (in Williamsburg and Greepoint) had stories," Reid
The NYPD's most recent
Compsat figures are mixed regarding rape for Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
Brooklyn's 90th precinct shows a 16 percent increase, with 21 rapes this
year, versus 18 in 2003. In the 94th precinct there have been four reported
rapes this year so far compared to six reported last year.
"To walk home
alone drunk or sober late at night is a risk," Reid said.
RightRides Web site states they will not take anyone party-hopping, only
home. The founders are trying to recruit more driving teams -- of which,
one member is always a woman -- so they can expand hours and increase
RightRides hold their
next training for new drivers at 7 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the Mini Mall on
Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg. The phone number for a ride home is 718-964-7781.
B'KLYN TAXIS GET
GALS HOME FREE
New York Post. New York, N.Y.: Dec 4, 2004. By Hasani Gittens.
A rash of rapes in
north Brooklyn prompted two Williamsburg women to take safety into their
own hands - and start a free ride-home program for females.
RightRides - which
serves the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area and Manhattan's Lower East Side
- was started in August by Consuelo Ruybal, 35, and Oraia Reid, 27, who
got the idea after reading a Post report of one particularly horrific
"We decided to
take action and find empowerment and to see women home safely rather than
just be upset about it," Reid said.
The free service operates
from midnight on Saturdays to 4:30 a.m. Sundays.
Riders can call (718)
964-7781 to take advantage of the service.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
- Monday, December 6, 2004
2 aim to stem rapes with offer of rides
BY Melissa Grace
After a string of
rapes on the streets of Williamsburg, two women decided to do something
about it: They started a free car service for women only.
The idea for the bar-to-home
escort service, RightRides, hit Consuelo Ruybal and her partner, Oraia
Reid, in August after they heard a report of a woman being abducted and
"It was so disturbing,
we wanted to do something about it," said Reid, 27. "I just
wanted to give everybody a ride home."
First, they sent a
survey by E-mail to 15 people. Within a week, they had 100 responses from
women saying they were afraid to walk home alone but do so when they cannot
afford a cab.
Since Sept. 4, RightRides
has offered rides home from bars and parties on Sunday, from midnight
to 4 a.m. only.
They pick up and drop
off customers in Williamsburg - where the number of rapes has increased
by 10% so far this year - as well as Greenpoint and the lower East Side.
Reid and Ruybal, 35,
use their GMC truck - a magnetic RightRides sign is put on the vehicle
- and are spending $1,000 a month, which, for now, they're paying themselves.
The service's 15 volunteers
work under strict rules. Two workers are in the car at all times. One
must be a woman.
Riders are dropped
off at home only and drivers must ensure they get safely inside. They
accept no money - not even tips. The job can be tough, as most customers
are women who have had too much to drink.
Volunteer Dina Fiasconaro,
28, described a night when a drunken rider climbed in the GMC and refused
to give her address. She wanted to be taken to buy a sandwich, and, when
they passed a bodega, she spilled out of the car.
"We were, like,
stalking her," Fiasconaro said of waiting for her to come back out.
When she did, the woman stumbled and more than one man grabbed at her.
"When we got
her home, she said, 'You girls are like little angels on wheels.'"
The car service, which
also sends out bike-riding volunteers who hand out flyers to women walking
alone, gets about 10 calls a night.
On Halloween, it got
30 calls, too many for the one-car outfit to handle. RightRides is looking
for volunteers with cars.
Rapes in Williamsburg's
90th Precinct have jumped 9.5% compared with last year, to 23 rapes so
far this year. Seven rapes have been reported to Greenpoint's 94th Precinct,
down by 12.5% compared with last year's numbers, cops said.
Reid, who is working
full time to set up the service, and Ruybal, a Web designer, say they
have big plans.
They are working to
get RightRides nonprofit status and have raised $300 on their Web site,
"We'd like to
see RightRides happen in every city," Reid said.
The RightRides number
is (718) 964-7781.
on December 6, 2004
By Claire Hamilton
Because getting home
safe shouldnt be a luxury for women
After learning about
another vicious sexual assault in Williamsburg over the summer, Oraia
Reid decided to take action against the increasing violence threatening
women in the Brooklyn area.
By late August 2004,
she and her girlfriend Consuelo Ruybal had founded and were fully operating
RightRides, a Brooklyn-based car service offering free transportation
to women on late Saturday nights. The service grew out of a collective
brainstorming between the couple and fifteen of their friends, who met
one evening to answer questionnaires addressing women safety issues.
Soon flyers were
distributed, business cards printed, a website launched (www.rightrides.org)
and calls answered (718.964.7781).
Williamsburg, Greenpoint and the Lower East Side, catering only to women
seeking a safe route home. That is, no men and no party-hoppers. A team
of volunteers has assisted Ms. Reid and Ms. Ruybal, who alternate between
roles as dispatcher and navigator, between the hours of 12:00 a.m. to
4:30 a.m. every Saturday for the past six weeks. The organization, according
to Ms. Reid, aims to actively reduce the number of women at risk
and to better educate women.
RightRides is as
much a tool for awareness as it is a direct response to neighborhood violence.
Referring to recent attacks, Ms. Reid points out that there are a
lot of actively social people that are not aware. She cites a lack
of press on incidents of rape, lamenting that for many, awareness first
occurs when crime is either close to home, or in your face.
for the 90th precinct, which serves a good portion of the Williamsburg
area, show decreased numbers of murder, robbery, felony assault and burglary
between 2003 and 2004. Rape statistics for the year (through September
26th) show an increase, however, of 16.6%. A 28-day report covering most
of September 2004 shows that five rapes were reported to the 90th precinct
alone, compared with only one for the same period in 2003. These numbers
can fluctuate for a variety of reasons and do not establish a projected
trend, but the facts are alarming.
As a result, RightRides
is also directing women towards free self-defense workshops and community
groups, organized by locals and the precincts. A police officer is scheduled
to teach volunteers how to properly dispatch 911 calls in order to expedite
emergency situations. And a Right-Rides bike patrol equipped with safety
kits, pepper spray, area maps and CB radios is in the process of forming
in order to look out for women at risk.
For all of its speedy
accomplishments, the organization is not yet rich in resources. Ms. Reids
description of her work as a labor of love underscores not
only the time that she invests (she is an Office Manager by day and also
plays in a band) but also the money. RightRides does not keep or accept
cash in their vehicle, so as to avoid liability and to prevent riders
from feeling the pressure to give. The service is meant, after all, to
make women feel as comfortable as possible about getting home safely.
RightRides does however
encourage online donations, and theyre seeking drivers with street
legal vehicles as volunteers. The organization is working towards a non-for-profit
status, which will likely take several months, at which time they can
apply for grants. In the meantime, they recently hosted a rock show benefit
and are working on an auction for November with donations from local businesses.
Despite a lack of
regular funding, Ms. Reid has more plans for the organization, including
a volunteer research project that would create citywide maps detailing
areas where sexual assault has occurred. A survivor herself, Ms. Reid
rhetorically asks why not get empowered? And in fact, the
collective efforts of RightRides volunteers are a reminder that there
is safety in numbers.
Zipcar Helps RightRides Move Forward
April 7, 2007
By Megan Battista
Williamsburg-based RightRides is now able to extend its late-night safety
services to include more Brooklyn neighborhoods with the addition of
three more vehicles courtesy of Zipcar.
With the help of neighborhood volunteers, RightRides has been fostering
the safety of women, “transpeople” and “gender queer” individuals
by offering free late-night rides home on Saturdays for the past two
years. Officials from Zipcar say they truly respected what the grassroots
organization was trying to do for those targeted by crime so they wanted
to support their cause.
“We decided to provide RightRides with vehicles to run their
programs because we truly believe that they are providing a much-needed,
positive service for women in many of the Brooklyn neighborhoods,” says
Joel Johnson, regional marketing manager for Zipcar. “We are
proud to offer three fuel-efficient vehicles to an organization that
provides safety transportation for women after hours.”
While three vehicles doesn’t sound like much, it has made an
enormous impact according to Oraia Reid, co-founder and executive director
“Our services have tripled in size,” she says. “We’ve
expanded from three neighborhoods back in 2004 to 19 this past year”
In 2006, RightRides had driven home nearly 600 people in the 19 neighborhoods
and the organization is looking to exceed that count in the near future.
“We are looking to expand up to 35 with the possibility of additional
donated vehicles from Zipcar,” Reid says.
Reid wants to expand to Harlem, upper area of Queens, as well as more
areas in Brooklyn. RightRides’ mission, Reid says, is to become
a citywide service sooner than later.
Reid and partner Consuelo Ruybal, started RightRides in response to
a perceived increase in assaults on women walking home alone in Williamsburg
and Greenpoint. They bought a cell phone to use as a dispatching device
and used their own set of wheels to drive women home. Instead of relying
on New York City statistics to determine which neighborhoods are more
at risk for crime, Reid says she relies on information from community
“You really can’t put a statistic on a person’s
perception of safety,” she says. “There are too many factors
to be determined when looking at the New York City crime statistics
that in some cases don’t even factor into what we do. RightRides
looks at neighborhoods that are lacking a lot of street lighting and
public transportation because more times than not, those are the neighborhoods
at high risk”
With the addition of even more vehicles in the future from Zipcar,
Reid is hoping to also expand the nights of the week RightRides offers
its’ services. The hope is to expand to more nights than just
Saturday. The probability of such a lofty expansion, however, hinges
on the amount of volunteers that are willing to drive said Reid.
“Right now we have 100 volunteers that are making those three
cars happen in one night,” says Reid. “Our first goal is
to get to more neighborhoods so that we can get more community support
and volunteers and then we’ll add on more nights. What we want
to do would require a phenomenal amount of volunteers.”
RIGHTRIDES: While known for its free late-night rides,
RightRides also hosts neighborhood safety meetings, self-defense classes
and is currently offering a “safe walk” program. For this,
two bicycle riders, one of whom must be female, will escort pedestrians
where they need to go at night. Unlike the car service, the final destination
for men or women needn’t be home, and any neighborhood can join.
For more information go to www.rightrides.org
ZIPCAR: In addition to donating vehicles to Rightrides, Zipcar is
now expanding their services to the Williamsburg area with a new location
on South 9th and Kent. For more information go to www.zipcar.com
RIDE, SHE SAID
In Williamsburg, a pick-up of a different kind.
New York Post By Kate
THE FIRST WEEK of
August, two men abducted a woman walking home from Trash bar (formerly
Luxx) in Williamsburg. After driving her to Queens and forcing her to
withdraw $800 from an ATM, they brutally raped her and drove her back
to Brooklyn, where they dumped her. Alarmed by what they saw as a rise
in violence against women in North Brooklyn, Oraia Reid and Consuelo Ruybal
decided to found RightRides, a free, late-night ride-home service for
women and trans people.
There certainly have
been some high-profile attacks. Last April, two women were followed into
the lobby of a building and raped on Grand St. between Havemeyer and Marcy,
a normally desolate block heavily populated that evening due to numerous
gallery events. Over the summer, a woman was mugged on Humboldt &
Devoe, on the border of Williamsburg and Bushwick. Though she relinquished
her purse, her attacker nonetheless slashed her wrist with a meat cleaver.
The savagery shocked area residents, prompting anxious phone calls to
police and community meetings, according to an officer at Williamsburg's
Yet, while it is true
that many rapes go unreported, NYPD figures reflect no significant rise
in rape for Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the main areas served by RightRides.
According to crime figures provided by Det. John Sweeney, an NYPD spokesman,
there's been a 16 percent increase in reported rapes in the 90th precinct
over the last three years. Though at first glance, that might seem steep,
in 2003, there were 18 rapes reported, while so far in 2004, there have
been 21. In terms of straight figures, it's not much of an increase, especially
when you take into consideration such numbers' unreliability. In 2001,
only 39 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported. Moreover,
over half of women know their assailant, and only one in 10 rapes takes
place outside, away from a person's home. In Greenpoint, there were six
rapes in 2003, and five so far in 2004. Ruybal and Reid cited 177 rapes
in all of North Brooklyn as of mid-July, a figure that does not match
those I received from the NYPD.
With a continuing
influx of middle-class people into fashionable but still rough-around-the-edges
areas like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, newcomers' perceptions that crime is
swelling may come as a surprise to longtime residents, for whom violent
crime has long been a hazard of everyday life. And if violence against
women in North Brooklyn is indeed on the rise, one factor might be the
potentially volatile combination of young, naive and often well-to-do
artists and professionals moving into areas where sporadic and dramatic
incidents of violence are more likely.
At the moment, Reid
and Ruybal are the only RightRides drivers, with pick-up and drop-off
areas limited to the Lower East Side, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and
the service itself limited to Saturday nights from 12 to 4:30 a.m. Other
volunteers are assisting through their Bike Patrols, which distribute
fliers to women walking home during the RightRides service times to alert
them to the service and ask them if they want a ride or walking chaperone
home. On October 7, they held a benefit at Northsix with bands like the
King Cobra and Lesbians on Ecstasy to raise money for gas and legal fees.
RightRides is applying for 501(c)3 status and grants they hope will pay
for an entire fleet of cars. They're coordinating with the Center for
Anti-Violence Education at the Greenpoint Y to set up regular self-defense
workshops, as well as setting up another benefit for early December, where
bands will play, and donated goods and gift certificates will be auctioned.
Even if expansion
plans fall through, RightRides would continue to provide a valuable service.
But Reid and Ruybal are serious about building the organization into something
that can serve women and trans people beyond the stylish club-going elite
of Williamsburg. For RightRides to grow, it needs street-legal cars and
licensed drivers willing to volunteer their time and their vehicles. It
also needs volunteers to organize benefits, bands to play and spaces willing
to host the events. They need grant-writing help and cyclists for their
The RightRides slogan
is "Because Getting Home Shouldn't Be a Luxury." They're right.
It shouldn't be, not for any woman. No matter how long they've lived in
Volume 17, Issue 43
Responses to the
Where do you find
these women to write your articles (Kate Crane, "Ride, She Said,"
10/27)? I'm not even going to go into the O'Reilly articleit would
take me all day.
Kate Crane's skeptical
tone and presentation of so-called "facts" is completely unsubstantiated
and unprofessional, and I wonder why she'd even bother to write an article
about the service if it was going to be so negative. She is a woman, right?
Her article is filled
with contradictory statements and figures. She claims statistics show
no rise in violence against women in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area
and quotes unmatching figures provided by the NYPD and those of the RightRides
founders, but then goes on to admit that "only 39 percent of rapes...
were reported" and that the numbers quoted from the NYPD are unreliable.
Hellothis "writer" is a walking, talking contradiction
and needs to get her thoughts and facts in order. She may also want to
try talking to someone other than an NYPD spokesman, someone like a real
cop, someone at the Center for Anti-Violence Education or hey, maybe even
women in the neighborhood who have faced violent situations and/or are
currently using the service.
In my opinion, even
one rape or attack is one too many. Take away all of these contradictory
facts and figures, and the RightRides service is justified on this basis
alone. If they can prevent even one person from getting harassed, attacked,
raped or killed, then that's enough for me.
Crane obviously has
some issues with her own identity, as she finds it necessary to throw
out generalizations about those of us who actually live in those neighborhoods.
I am the furthest thing from "naive," "well-to-do"
or the "stylish, club-going elite" and I find it horrendous
that she would actually suggest that it is our fault for moving into these
formerly "rough" neighborhoods in the first place. Is she saying
we are asking for it or deserve it? That would be like blaming a woman
for being raped because she was wearing a short skirt and high heels.
These are outdated and preposterous myths that Crane is perpetuating,
and lack any merit of professional journalism whatsoever.
Dina Fiasconaro, Brooklyn
Finished Kate Crane's
"Ride, She Said" and I just want to clarify a couple of things
(10/27). First: When we at RightRides cite the "North Brooklyn"
crime statistics, it covers more than one precinct. See this link: www.nyc.gov/html/NYPD/pdf/chfdept/cspbbn.pdf
This document is available
by clicking the SAT COM Brooklyn North link available from this page:
Because some time
has passed, the number has increased to 260 rapes. If Crane would like
to learn to read crime statistics, she can join us at the next block watcher's
training. I'll let you know the details when they become solidified.
Second: Since when
do the "stylish, club-going elite" need a free service? The
whole point of this project is to provide a service to women who may not
be able to afford a car service or taxi.
It saddens and upsets
me that your paper would discount a 16 percent rise in violent attacks
as hardly significant because it's just three more than last year. Let's
just say all three of those women are your neighbors or your friends?
And the attacks happened within a very short time frame?
It scared us into
action; which to me is enough.
Consuelo Ruybal, co-founder
of RightRides, Brooklyn
In response to Kate
Crane's article on RightRides, a few key factors came to mind that are
slightly irking ("Ride, She Said," 10/27). For one, the author
unfortunately takes on the tired and oversung stance that all the victims
are privileged, naive and maybe even not so street-smart, and thus it
only makes sense that (rape) crime seems up to them since they are new
in the neighborhood and affluent artist-types, etc.
What about the students
who move to these neighborhoods because they are on a strict budget? Or
the working-class people or those who have recently immigrated and/or
work late hours? Or anyone who doesn't want to live too far away from
Manhattan yet needs more affordable housing? Are they also naive, sheltered,
privileged and un-street-savvy?
And though there's
no denying the class difference between older families and ethnic communities
that have existed in Greenpoint, Bushwick and Williamsburg for decades
in sharp contrast to the younger single people as well as 30-somethings
of varied cultural backgrounds looking to start families in an area that
they can afford to live in, the bottom line is, New York City has always
been a mix of "relatively safe" next to "on the edge of
danger." And just because an area isn't as gentrified or trendy as
another section (say, comparing Bedford Ave. to Grand St. or Broadway/Myrtle)
doesn't discount the lives or livelihoods of the residents.
Just like fires and
muggings often go unreported or downplayed in numbers as far as the media
is concerned, sadly enough, so do rapes. And if women are uninformed at
the rate at which these rapes occur when they move into a new area, be
it a single young or old woman, working mother, or family, we are not
given a fair perception of the level of danger we are subject to, nor
made aware of when to be on the alert once crimes have occurred and are
swept under the rug or kept quiet.
be commended for thinking forward and putting a positive twist on empowering
women and the community. Maybe if more people talked about what was really
happening to other women in the streets and shops, subways, etc., more
women would feel less ashamed in coming forward when they have been victimized.
I have lived in South Williamsburg for nearly two years, and the first
rapes I heard about and saw posters pertaining to were the two women who
were attacked in the lobby of the building on Grand St.
Only since RightRides
started have a few of my friends come forward and admitted that they had
heard about other attacks in Greenpoint. The good news is that they also
knew information about the self-defense classes that are being organized
as well as how to obtain pepper spray. As women in New York city, we often
pride ourselves in being self-sufficient and autonomousbut now we
must also be armed and prepared to defend ourselves every time we step
outside. And as it stands now, society still has a big stigma toward rape
victims, especially those of us possessing less social stature and/or
darker skin color. RightRides is looking beyond that in an effort to make
all women feel safe and comfortable where they livewhether they
are out socializing or just trying to get home from work.
I do agree with your
ending notesafety is not a luxury. Please follow up with RightRides
as they develop and progressit's crucial to everyone's peace of
December 13, 2004
NEW YORK TIMES - METRO SECTION
A Free Ride for Women, by Women, Late at Night
By JUDY TONG
Consuelo Ruybal and
Oraia Reid looked out the windows of their sport utility vehicle, scanning
the dark doorways on Johnson Avenue in Brooklyn for an address. Early
on a recent Sunday morning, they were driving along a deserted street
in East Williamsburg lined with warehouses.
Ms. Ruybal drove while
Ms. Reid navigated, clutching a map and a cellphone. They spotted a sign
with the address and Ms. Ruybal stopped the car.
A few seconds later,
Betsy Cohen walked out the front door. Spotting the idling black S.U.V.,
she smiled, crossed the street, climbed into the back seat and thanked
the women for coming to get her.
For Ms. Cohen, 24,
it was a safe way to get home to Bushwick after a friend's Saturday night
party. But the two women were not providing a typical livery service.
One important difference is that their service is free. Another is that
they give rides only to women.
Using their own money,
Ms. Ruybal, 35, and Ms. Reid, 27, started the service, RightRides, in
September after a number of attacks against women in Williamsburg and
Greenpoint. The RightRides motto is, "Because getting home safe should
not be a luxury."
In the 90th Precinct,
which covers Williamsburg, the police have recorded 24 rapes so far this
year compared with 21 in the same period of 2003. In the 94th Precinct,
which covers Greenpoint, seven rapes have been recorded this year, compared
with eight in the same period last year.
Ms. Cohen had called
RightRides because she thought it was her safest option. "I have
enough money to take a cab, but I'm scared," Ms. Cohen said. "I
know people who have had stuff happen in cabs. I'm a very small woman.
You're in a car, and Bushwick is Bushwick."
Before picking up
Ms. Cohen, Ms. Ruybal and Ms. Reid had picked up Rosamond King, 29, and
her friend Purvi Shah, 32, who had been at a different party in Williamsburg.
Ms. King said she
called the service to avoid the long walk from the subway to her Bedford-Stuyvesant
home. Ms. Shah said the subway was not safe in the wee hours of the morning,
especially "as public transportation gets worse and worse and less
The decision to start
the service came after Ms. Reid read a newspaper article about the August
kidnapping, rape and robbery of a woman who had been walking home from
a club in Williamsburg. The club is close to the studio where Ms. Reid,
who is a musician in a punk rock band, practices.
She said the article
upset her so much that she started crying and shared her feelings with
Ms. Ruybal, with whom she lives in Boerum Hill.
"I was telling
Consuelo about all this stuff that had happened," Ms. Reid said.
"And she said, 'Well, so what do you want to do about it?' and I
replied, 'I just want to give everybody a ride home.' And she said, '
Let's talk about that.' "
It took a month of
planning before Ms. Ruybal, who designs Web sites, and Ms. Reid were ready
to roll out their service. Among other things, they distributed fliers
in Williamsburg and Greenpoint listing the cellphone number, 718-964-7781,
for the service.
The service operates
from midnight to 4:30 a.m. on Sundays and, besides Williamsburg and Greenpoint,
offers rides to women in the Lower East Side and the East Village. After
a slow start, Ms. Ruybal and Ms. Reid say they now average about two or
three calls every hour. But the demand for the service, which has received
publicity in the news media , is quickly outgrowing the supply. Ms. Ruybal
and Ms. Reid, who say they want to expand the service to other nights,
have about 10 people willing to volunteer but only one vehicle.
Ms. Cohen waited an
hour to be picked up because another rider was being dropped off. Another
caller grew tired of waiting and canceled. Ms. Ruybal and Ms. Reid are
applying for nonprofit status so they can qualify for grants and increase
So far, they have
spent more than $3,000 on the service; donations and two benefits have
brought in an additional $400.
On the morning that
Ms. Cohen, Ms. King and Ms. Shah called RightRides, the inside of the
black GMC Envoy darkened by tinted windows was like a cocoon, a temporary
haven where the women commiserated about the more unpleasant experiences
of going home late at night.
"So far, we've
definitely heard some very painful stories," Ms. Ruybal said. "And,
on one hand it's incredibly unfortunate that so many women have to go
through so much harassment on every level every day of their lives. But
on the other hand, it's really heartening that we are able to provide
a service for them.
"In our third
week of service, a woman told us, 'You are making a direct difference'
and that meant the world to us, because that's what we want to do, make
a direct difference in women's lives."
There were two more
callers after Ms. Cohen was dropped off, the last about 4 a.m.
this is Oraia speaking," Ms. Reid said. "Are you going home?"
Copyright 2004 The
New York Times Company
Dec 13, 2004
Recount - A Magazine of Contemporary Politics - NYU
Answering the Call
Women living in Williamsburg,
Greenpoint, and on the Lower East Side no longer have to walk home alone.
In fact, they dont have to walk at allthanks to RightRides,
a group working to provide women with safe rides home during the late-night
a car service, were a transportation alternative, said Oraia
Reid, 27, who recently founded RightRides along with Consuelo Ruybal,
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
couldnt 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 groups busiest weekend was Halloween, when 30 women contacted
RightRidesa 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
dont 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 were excited about the
next time we can volunteer.
For a free ride, check
Greenpoint Star - February 3, 2005
Fighting Sex Crimes One Ride at a Time
By Elizabeth Ryan
Neighborhood safety was on everyone's mind last Tuesday night at the Stay
Gold Gallery, where community members gathered to discuss ways to prevent
sexual assaults against women.
Organized by RightRides, a local donation-based organization committed to
providing safe, free rides home to women and transgender people on Saturday
nights, the meeting was an opportunity for community leaders and residents
to share information and answer questions.
"The media doesn't always report what goes on" RightRides co-founder
Oraia Reid explained, "and not many are actually going to walk into
a precinct to get information. We want to bridge the resource gap and empower
women to become informed and take their personal safety into their own hands."
Crime Prevention officers from the 90th precinct, Teri Muroff, Public Safety
Chair for CB1, and Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau at the King's
County District Attorney's office, were among those who attended the meeting.
Although authorities could not discuss the details of rape cases specific
to Williamsburg and Greenpoint because of ongoing investigations, they addressed
attendees' concerns by stressing that sexual assault is a crime of opportunity,
not geography. Police patrols can deter would-be assailants from a particular
area, but a determined criminal will seek an opportunity elsewhere. Potential
attackers are looking for victims, who are not aware of their surroundings,
who won't put up a fight, and most often, who are by themselves.
"Many parts of Williamsburg and Greenpoint are incredibly desolate
or boarded up late at night," Reid warns. "Walking along on a
poorly lit street in a desolate area is a recipe for becoming a victim."
According to NYPD Compstat statistics, there were 19 reported rapes within
Williamsburg's 90th precinct in 2004, and 5 reported rapes within Greenpoint's
94th during the same time period. As Jaus explained, these figures are lower
than in other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but still represent cause for concerned
"With crime at an all-time low, I guess people become complacent and
need to be reminded that crime and criminals are still out there,"
Teri Muroff commented. "What makes a meeting of this type a success
is that it was stressed over and over to the attendees that there are no
No matter where you are, self-defense begins with common sense. Don't walk
by yourself late at night, especially through any park or with headphones
on. If you think someone is following you, do not attempt to confront the
person. Turn around the other way, get to a well-lit or populated area and
call the police immediately.
"Don't take chances with your personal safety and risk walking home
in order to save a few bucks," Reid advises. "If it's Saturday
night, please call Right Rides. We exist because every woman has the right
to get home safe."
As Jaus explained, however, rape does not always begin in a darkened alley.
Many rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows, or with whom
she is acquainted. Date rape drugs like Rohypnol pose a significant and
growing threat to women in social venues like bars and night clubs, which
are springing up all over the North Brooklyn area, because they can be easily
slipped into unsuspecting victim's drinks. The drug makes it difficult for
women to recall what happened to them afterwards.
"If you are out at a bar," Ms. Jaus cautioned, "do not leave
your drink unattended, not even for a second."
As lead representative for investigating and prosecuting cases on behalf
of sex crime victims, Jaus also advised attendees on what steps women should
take in the event of a sexual assault. It is important for the victim to
go to the hospital before bathing. A rape kit will be conducted in the presence
of a social worker to collect important DNA samples and to record any bruises
or the presence of date rape drugs. Results from the DNA test will later
be compared to a database of suspects, or used to corroborate a suspect's
"Knowledge is power and this meeting informed" Muroff said. "Personally,
I learned some things I never knew that, god forbid, I or someone I knew
was ever a victim of rape I believe would get me through the ordeal."
Tuesday's meeting was part of RightRides holistic on-going efforts to promote
"I think it's great that Oraia and Consuelo are making it their mission
to get information out there to help women feel and be safe," Muroff
Jaus agreed. "I compliment them for their work. It shows how people
who want to, can make a difference in people's lives."
For more information on RightRides programs, to volunteer or offer a donation,
log on to www.rightrides.org.
BUST Magazine - Feb-March
Nighttime is the right time for RightRides
by Christy Boldenow
You're a city chick, rockin' Saturday night till the break of day. But
what happens once last call rolls around? While it's not the safest scenario,
walking home alone at night is a grim reality for many city women without
the means to take a cab. Thanks to Oraia Reid and Consuelo Ruybal, however,
there is a better way.
After learning about increased attacks against
women in their Brooklyn neighborhood, Ruybal, 35, an interaction designer
at a marketing agency, and Reid, 27, a bassist for the political punk
band Shellshocked, founded RightRides last September.
Offering free rides
home on Saturday nights, RightRides is available to women in Williamsburg
and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. All
a gal in need has to do is call, and a volunteer will arrive in ten minutes
to drive her home free of charge.
On an average night, ten women will
get a lift, but on busy nights, RightRides has fielded over 30 calls between
midnight and 4 a.m. "Because we're so passionate about RightRides,
we look forward to working on Saturdays, " says Reid, who hopes to
extend hours and service areas with more volunteers and money raised by
ongoing fundraisers. "Doing a shift feels so good, we get excited
about the next time we can volunteer." For more info, check out www.rightrides.org.
Metro New York - December 12, 2005
Women’s car service hits the brakes
Despite nod from city, RightRides suspends weekend transportation until spring
by Amy Zimmer
LOWER MANHATTAN — Consuelo Ruybal and her partner Oraia Reid spend their weekend nights in some of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods — Williamsburg, Greenpoint and the Lower East Side — but not to party. Instead, they provide a free car service to make sure women get home safely from their nights of reverie.
In the year since they started RightRides, they’ve been filmed for a documentary about heroes in the gay and lesbian community that’s expected to screen at this year’s New York Film Festival, and yesterday they received a Mayoral Proclamation designating Dec. 12 “RightRides for Women’s Safety Day.” But there will be no RightRides cars on the road this winter.
“We’ve driven nearly 200 women and transwomen home,” said Reid, 28. They had 11 teams driving Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 4:30 a.m., but after the summer Reid and Ruybal found themselves making most of the trips. “Some people left town in the summer; two cars broke down and the drivers said it cost too much to fix.”
The duo temporarily suspended their service. They plan to resume in March after they secure a fleet of two or three cars from a group — undisclosed at the moment — they’re partnering with.
They started RightRides in response to a perceived increase in violent crimes against women in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Reid, who plays in a band, heard stories of assault from other female musicians coming home late at night.
According to the NYPD’s most recent CompStat figures, so far this year in the Lower East Side there were 10 reported rapes, compared to four last year; in Greenpoint the number remained unchanged at 6; and in Williamsburg the reported rapes are down to 17, from 21 last year.
But, Reid pointed out, “Rape tends to be underreported; only about 40 percent of women go to the police.”
Ruybal, 36, thinks the overall decline in crime promotes a false sense of security for some women. “New York — it does feel pretty safe,” she said. “But you get a bunch of people who’ve moved here for the first time, and they don’t realize what people here for a long time know: You don’t let your guard down.”
During its hiatus, RightRides plans to step up its volunteer safety training and will explore service expansion to Red Hook, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, as well as to Astoria and Long Island City.
The other challenge for the service is raising $1 million for driving and liability insurance. “We need insurance for the drivers and, because we’re dealing with women’s safety, it's important to have comprehensive insurance coverage,” Reid said.
Patricia Gatling, the city’s Commissioner on Human Rights who presented RightRides their mayoral proclamation, said, “Everyone in Brooklyn knows about RightRides.
“They can actually be credited with helping reduce crime,” Gatling said. “How many of us would pick up a stranger? These women decided it’s not just someone else’s problem.”
AMNewYork - March 29, 2006
Acclaimed Brooklyn safe rides program short of drivers
By Paola Loriggio
Eighteen months ago, after a rash of rapes in north Brooklyn, two local women created a free car service to take women home late at night. The organization -- called RightRides -- was hailed as a great success. Now it's struggling to survive.
RightRides volunteers have given rides to nearly 200 women. The organization has been honored by the mayor's office, City Council and women's rights groups. Just last week, Councilwoman Diana Reyna gave the group's founders an award for service to the Williamsburg community.
But even as the duo accepted it, RightRides was on hiatus -- and has been since November -- because of a dwindling pool of volunteers with cars.
Co-founder Oraia Reid said the group hopes to be back in operation by summer, and that she is talking to companies about securing cars for RightRides. But she declined to go into detail. "We have to think long-term," she said.
RightRides offered women free trips home between midnight Saturday and 4:30 a.m. Sunday. Its service area was limited to Williamsburg, Greenpoint, the East Village and the Lower East Side, but a fleet of cars could enable the group to expand that, Reid said.
There were 1,638 reported rapes in the city last year, with 241 -- almost 15 % -- in north Brooklyn, according to police statistics; this year, 57 rapes have been reported in north Brooklyn.
RightRides is "a very good response to the issue of stranger rape," which accounts for about 20% of rapes, said Harriet Lessel, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
A spokesman for Reyna said the councilwoman awarded Reid and co-founder Consuelo Ruybal with the Pacesetter Award -- presented in honor of Women's History Month -- because they saw a problem and took action instead of complaining.
Reid said that after death of Imette Saint-Guillen, the John Jay graduate student who was raped and murdered last month, she fielded calls from reporters asking if demand for the service had increased.
"I had to tell them we were non-operational," she said. "It breaks my heart, because who knows? Maybe she could have called us."
New York Post - November 25, 2006
By Lisa Keys
SAFE RIDES AND OTHER FUN WAYS TO GIVE BACK
VOLUNTEERING is about spreading
cheer - not yawns. We get it: You want to do good over the holidays,
but dishing out a turkey dinner, though noble, doesn't always make for
a memorable experience. Read on for 10 projects that make it fun to give
back, this season and all year round:
GIVE A LIFT
Spring for a cab, or walk home alone? Right Rides offers women a third
option by providing a free ride home on Saturday nights to reduce their
risk of sexual assault. They need two-person teams of drivers and navigators;
you don't need a car (the organization partners with Zipcar), but at least
one volunteer must be female. Info: rightrides.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
24/7 Courier Life Publications - November 15, 2006
By Joe Maniscalco
RightRides Holds The Car Door Open For Weekend Night Owls
click to read the article in full
GET HOME SAFE: RightRides
For any hipland livin'
lady, RightRides is the missing piece for your peace of mind. It's an
unfortunate fact that violent crimes against women are on the rise, especially
in those areas where many of us live and go out. Of course, not every
woman resides close to the subway, nor can she necessarily afford to drop
cash on cab fare. But we all want to be safe. RightRides comes preemptively
to the rescue, offering door-to-door service to get you back home without
anxiety. Now in the early stages, RightRides currently ferries women free
of charge on Saturday nights between 12-4:30am in the LES, East Village,
and North Brooklyn (aka Williamsburg and Greenpoint) areas. The more RR
increases their profile, the better the service will be, so start using
them now, and don't hesitate to volunteer or make a donation. We've got
to fight for our ride to (and from the) party! (JKG)
Police have two men
suspected of a Williamsburg rape last week. The men had followed the woman
into an apartment building at Driggs and North 8th, which was near where
two women were raped in April. A phone tip led to the arrests, relieving
residents some what.
A couple weeks ago,
someone emailed Gothamist about an all volunteer organization they were
starting to provide women in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan (at this point)
would be guaranteed free rides home and door to door escorts, where at
least two volunteers (one being a woman) would make sure you got home
safe. Please email us again or comment about - we've misplaced your contact
info. It's a great idea and we're curious if it started. [UPDATED:] Thanks
to all the readers who emailed and commented - the organization is RightRides.
Read the comments more information as well.
Posted by Jen Chung in News: NYC
RightRides: FREE SELF-DEFENSE
Greenpoint YMCA, 99 Meserole Ave, Gymnasium
(G to Nassau Ave / B43 or B61 bus)
RightRides is offering
a free 90-minute self-defense workshop led by Brenda Jones of the Center
for Anti-Violence Education. We will learn basic self-defense techniques
and discuss safety issues. All women and transgender folks are invited
RightRides is a direct
response to an increase in violent crimes against women. We are a non-profit
transportation alternative operating in North Brooklyn, the LES and East
Village that provides free, safe, late night rides home for ladies and
transgender folks. This service is 100% volunteer-run and we need your
Many thanks to the
Center for Anti-Violence Education and the Greenpoint YMCA for offering
their resources and support.
Daily Candy - March 27, 2006
Your childhood dream? To save the world, obviously. Tell Superman to retire — you’ve got your own cool powers, secret identities, and requisite tasks in mind.
The Emerald Escort
Superpower: Despite living in New York for three years, you still know how to drive.
Your task: Join the fleet of cars and vans of RightRides and transport women safely to their doors at night — for free.
to read interview with co-founder,
Executive Director Oraia Reid
WBAI - Pacifica Radio 99.5 FM
WBAI Evening News
Friday February 3rd, 2006
click to listen to interview
Metro New York - May 31, 2006
Free car service for women returns
by Amy Zimmer
RightRides, the free car service that shuttles women home from bars and parties on Saturday nights from midnight to 3 a.m. resumes June 3 after a hiatus.
It is expanding service to include the following areas: Brooklyn: Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Gowanus, Boerum Hill, Downtown areas, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Red Hook. Manhattan: East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown. Queens: Long Island City.
The nonprofit was created because of a perceived increase in late night attacks on women. They recently received three cars donated by Zipcar, which means that volunteers no longer need their own vehicles. The dispatch number is 718-964-7781.
Queens Chronicle - June 8, 2006
Free Late Night Ride Service Comes To L.I.C.
by Jennifer Manley
It's a dilemma many a New York woman has found herself in: Returning from a late night on the town to face a potentially perilous walk from the subway to the front door. She contemplates calling a cab and paying for the short but secure ride. Or should she risk the walk?
Now there is a small nonprofit group working to solve the problem with a simple plan: give women a free lift home.
With the motto, “Because getting home safe should not be a luxury,” Oraia Reid and her partner, Consuelo Ruybal, launched RightRides in August 2004 with just a car, a cell phone and a commitment to spending their Saturday nights driving around.
The two launched the service in direct response to increasing incidents of sexual attacks on women in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
A sexual assault survivor herself, Reid was left feeling vulnerable by stories of attacks on her neighborhood streets. Ruybal responded with something of a challenge, “What are you going to do about it?”
Less than two years later, RightRides has achieved nonprofit status and expanded its pick up and drop off service to 19 neighborhoods, including the Hunters Point and Long Island City.
RightRides experienced a brief hiatus last year when it became too difficult to find volunteers with cars to keep the service running.
Last week’s relaunch and expansion was made possible when Zipcar—the short term car rental company—agreed to donate the use of three of their vehicles.
RightRides service is now available from midnight to 3 a.m. every Saturday night. Passengers can request a ride to their homes within the coverage area from any other point within the covered zone by calling the dispatch number. The service is free and the drivers don’t accept tips.
Chinatown, the East Village and the Lower East Side are covered, as are over a dozen Brooklyn neighborhoods. In Long Island City, the coverage area includes everything south of 36th Avenue and west of 31st Street Queens Plaza East.
While Reid admits this is but a “tiny little chunk” of the borough, she says it is only a first step. “We really want to expand further into Queens and it really is possible with increased volunteers,” she said.
Requests for the service have been coming in from Astoria, Woodside, Sunnyside, Maspeth and other neighborhoods. Reid thinks that with enough volunteer drivers, and the support of Zipcar, fulfilling those request might be possible. She also noted that their plan is so simple that it could be easily replicated in every borough.
RightRides volunteers work in teams of one driver and one navigator. All volunteers must have a clean driving record and be cleared through a criminal background check. They are asked to commit to five 3 hour Saturday night shifts. One member of each team must be female, though they encourage men to volunteer as well.
Reid and Ruybal originally geared RightRides toward women and the gay community, but this year have widened their scope to include the transgender community.
Cross dressers, transsexual and other people who fall outside the traditional gender lines are particularly susceptible to violent or sexual attacks, Reid explained. She assured that riders are never asked to define their gender. They abide by a simple policy, “you are encouraged to call if you feel you are at risk,” she said.
For more information about RightRides, including the number to call for a ride, and how to volunteer as a driver, visit www.rightrides.org.
New York Post - June 11, 2006
By ANGELA MONTEFINISE
A nonprofit group that protects women from sexual assault by offering free late-night car rides is back on the road and expanding, targeting neighborhoods where rapes have increased in the past year.
RightRides returned to the road June 3 after a six-month hiatus caused by a lack of volunteers with cars.
A partnership with car-rental service ZipCar - which allows members to use cars parked all around the city - solved the problem, providing a fleet of three cars for the group's 15 volunteers and an opportunity to branch out.
RightRides is expanding from four neighborhoods to 19 in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, focusing on areas where NYPD stats show rape increases.
Red Hood had three rapes from Jan.1 to May 21 this year, compared to one over the same time period in 2005.