To provide safe transit for women and LGBTQ individuals in the District, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, a grassroots organization in Washington, D.C., that aims to build a community free from public sexual harassment and assault, will launch its new program RightRides D.C. on Halloween night.

The ride service will operate from 11:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. with three donated cars from ZipCar driven by volunteers who have undergone serious background checks and a two-hour training session. Focusing on a locus of U Street NW, the service will extend from Rock Creek Park to the intersection of Bladensburg Road and South Dakota Avenue NE but will not operate in the southeast and southwest quadrants of the city.

RightRides D.C. Coordinator Zosia Sztykowski explained that the organization had noticed a need for safe transportation options particularly late at night.

“[It happens] on the metro system and on buses and every once in a while there would be something that would happen in a cab or an Uber. It’s people that were just getting from point A to point B as they were walking down the street were being targeted in some way,” Sztykowski said. “We knew that our community needed a transportation option that was safe and affordable.”

If successful, RightRides D.C. hopes to continue to offer the free service on other holidays and throughout the entire city. Riders on Halloween will be encouraged to give feedback about preferred holidays and times.

“For next year we have a goal of running the program every Saturday night and it’s going to take a lot of resources to get us there,” Sztykowski said. “Another really important goal of ours is to expand the surface area to all four quadrants of D.C.”

The idea for the RightRides D.C. program was inspired by New York City’s RightRides for Women’s Safety that launched in 2004.

“One way we saw the need for the program was from our blog which collects stories of things that happen in the D.C. metro area involving public sexual harassment and gendered violence,” Sztykowski said. The program has received positive feedback from activists and allies in the District.

“I think it’s great, especially I think it is for those students who are gender non-conforming or trans students who are often getting the most harassed,” LGBTQ Resource Center Director Shiva Subbaraman said.

Halloween night can create a high-risk environment, as community members often dress up and stay out late.

“I feel like some people don’t get to do what they really want to do for Halloween for fear that when they are waiting for a taxi that they could be beaten up or harassed for the way they are dressed,” GU Pride First Year Representative Anthony Anderson (COL ’18) said. “Especially with the recent attack that happened at Georgetown it can be really scary to be out at night.”

While RightRides D.C. will offer a safer transportation service for women and LGBTQ individuals, Women’s Center Director Laura Kovach noted that further action to create a more welcoming community and to address the root problems of harassment is needed.

“It is important that we address safety with women and LGBTQ communities, but we must also make sure that we are not silencing survivors and all of our communities by only saying that women and LGBTQ individuals need to think about safety,” Kovach wrote in an email. “We need perpetrators to not harass and rape first and foremost. Then we should focus on safety as a community effort so that we can hold perpetrators accountable.”

Sztykowski agreed, pointing to programming and campaigns organized by CASS on making D.C. a safer community for all.

“RightRides D.C. just fills this gap for the time being and all the rest of Collective Action programming really deals with this idea of creating a community that is safe for everyone all the time in a variety of different ways,” Sztykowski said. “Even though our goal is to expand the program now, our number one top goal is to make the program irrelevant.”

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