A new private hire taxi app that lets women choose female drivers to help them feel safe on a night out is expanding after a successful launch.
RideSafe was created by Welsh entrepreneur Ben Cole-Edwards after his mother and aunt wanted a service that catered for women. It has already clocked up more than 1,300 fares and is expanding – across the UK and has been given the green light to operate in Los Angeles.
It went live on December 14 and is available for any location, 24 hours a day. The app lets passengers choose a licensed male or female driver with private hire insurance, request a selfie of the driver and the car so they know who to look for, and a one-time password to make sure it is the right taxi.
It also has many features in common with other booking apps, such as real-time tracking, reviews, and a call and messaging service.
As well as allowing passengers to select the gender of the driver, it allows friends and family to book on someone else’s behalf, giving added peace of mind, especially if women are travelling alone late at night.
The popularity of the app is that it isn’t just about female drivers picking up female passengers – it gives people the flexibility to choose, as well as extra protection.
Mr Cole-Edwards told WalesOnline: “The initial reason behind it was for women drivers who didn’t want to pick up drunk men. But after speaking to male drivers, it sounds like it’s a problem as well with women. So it will work both ways.”
And the review system can help female passengers stay safe if they have a bad experience with a taxi driver.
Mr Cole-Edwards said: “If a driver makes an inappropriate comment to you when you’re in the car, but you still need to use taxis, every time you book, you’re going to be dreading just in case you get in with the same driver.
“With RideSafe, you can review your driver, which will do one two things: other passengers can see that driver has made inappropriate comments to young girls in the past, but also that driver can see their own review and make them rethink their choices and rethink their words.”
Creating an account to use the service also helps protect taxi drivers as well as passengers.
Mr Cole-Edwards said: “With passengers attacking drivers, or passengers running away without paying, all the taxi firm has is that person’s number, whereas with us you have to create an account, upload your photo and all your details, so everything is saved.”
And when passengers are booking a taxi, the driver will not be able to see that they are looking for a specific gender, as the app will say there are ‘no available riders’ on the app.
As well as helping keep women safe, RideSafe has teamed up with Asda to stock Welsh taxis with free period products.
Mr Cole-Edwards said: “We’re aiming to help women in ways that no one else is. The Welsh Government aims to provide free sanitary products by 2026 so we’re all just getting ahead of the game a little.”
A community champion at Asda’s Maesteg branch has arranged for the store to provide 10 packs of sanitary products each month to be placed in RideSafe vehicles in Cardiff and Bridgend county.
Mr Coe-Edwards said: “The pads are there for passengers to take when needed and we’ll just replenish them when the drivers notify us. The pads will be kept in the backs of vehicles tucked into the front seats.”
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