As thousands of women add their voices to the #MeToo campaign, the fact that women face sexual assault or harassment at alarming rates is becoming even more undeniable.
The stories being shared online cover an array of instances, whether in the workplace, at home or in public spaces. One Boston-based app is working on keeping people safer at a time when they may be particularly vulnerable: when taking a rideshare, cab or walking by themselves.
SafeRideWalkSafe is a smartphone app that provides notifications to a group of your contacts whenever you travel. The app lets users see the best route for their trip, take photos of the car’s license plate or driver, if they’re comfortable doing so, and customize who receives information about their trip.
When you start a ride or begin walking, SafeRideWalkSafe calculates your estimated time of arrival (ETA). At the end of your trip, it prompts you to say that you’ve arrived safely. If you don’t confirm that button, the app informs your selected contacts via text or email that something may have gone wrong.
“What we’re trying to do is create the safest possible environment for anybody both riding and walking,” said CEO Greg Czarnowski. “I think it’s appropriate especially in light of the all [sexual assault] stuff coming out.”
The app was developed by Russel Pergament, who works in media and publishing. He heard from reporters who had bad experiences in cabs while working abroad and wanted to come up with a way to help keep them safe.
Recently, the company has been trying to work with college deans of students to offer the app at a discounted price, so schools can tell parents and prospective enrollees that this service will be provided to help keep students safer on campus and off, Czarnowski said.
Lyft and Uber do have options to share your ETA and trip status with contacts, but the separate app helps add another layer of protection, according to Czarnowski. Plus, it works for regular cabs, any shuttle service or when walking home.
“With taxi cabs, one of the things we suggested is when you get in the back seat, take a picture of the medallion. That’s instant identifiability and instant accountability,” Czarnowski said. “Our belief has always been, in terms of discomfort in asking to take a picture, is that it makes the driver accountable. It lets them know you do have this app that is going to keep you a little bit safer and that they’re on notice.”