I’ve had an aversion to taxicabs. I’m alone in a car with a strange man, and while I can tell the driver where I want to go, I fear that I have little control — if any — of where the driver actually takes me.
That fear struck me hard as I read about a 26-year-old Queens woman who was attacked last month by a “cab” driver. Police said she got into the driver’s sedan after he said he was a livery cabdriver. The taxi ride began in my own neighborhood — Inwood — and ended in Elmhurst, where the man tried to sexually assault her as her three children watched. Two of the kids were injured. A Yonkers man was arrested on assault charges.
Sometimes taking a cab is necessary, of course. When it is, it’s usually late at night — the woman flagged down the “cab” at 2:45 a.m. — and I’m far from home in an outer borough with unreliable train and bus service.
The fears I have about being in a taxi with a male driver were amplified when I read about that attack. This is why I’m so enthusiastic about SheRides, an app-based taxi service that plans to have all women drivers. The service was delayed last week when the app creator said its 100 drivers could not meet the high demand.
To be clear, I’ve never had a serious problem with a cabdriver, but there have been times when I’ve felt uncomfortable. Inappropriate comments, weird probing questions and unwelcome “compliments” can ruin an otherwise good day.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens enough. Often enough that when I can take the subway, I do. But if I knew that my cabdriver was a woman — and only 3 percent of NYC taxi drivers are female — I’d be more likely to take her cab.
This isn’t to say male cabdrivers are criminals or always pose a risk. I know the vast majority are hardworking people. But as a woman, I have that fear in the back of my mind. I know women can commit crimes, too, but I believe I’m less likely to be attacked by a woman.
When SheRides is launched, I plan to use it as often as possible. I’d be guaranteed a woman driver and the convenience of a car ride home instead of getting on the subway and hoping that riders would at least be witnesses if someone ever attacked me.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican and @ElBloombito.