A recent issue of Local Transport Today magazine focused in on the issue of security concerns restricting travel choices for women; and Liftshare was mentioned. So how safe are Liftshare and other car sharing sites for women?
It seems that in lots of circumstances, security concerns really are narrowing travel choices for women, as perceptions of personal safety change and night-time public transport options grow. Here at Liftshare, we offer comprehensive trust and safety advice and have linked with a personal safety charity to give advice on ‘network safety’. Feedback has been positive, and we continue to stay on top of best practice where security is concerned as part of our Sharing TrustSeal accreditation.
One of our Liftshare members, Su, shares her journeys because she feels safer having someone else travelling with her. She works at Stansted Airport, and her commute takes her along the A120, which is largely unlit, at 4am every morning. She says “[The journey] can be quite intimidating. Some people’s driving is erratic. It makes you aware: ‘If I had to stop here for any reason, I’m on my own.’ There isn’t always a good mobile signal. A good samaritan may stop but if it’s a male, would I ask him for help or would I lock myself in the car?”.
And it’s not just Su’s drive that she prefers having company for. Staff car parks at the airport can be up to a ten minute walk away from the terminal, with no security patrol. “People have been seen wandering around”, she says; “I think everybody should car share because it helps from the security side of things and the environment”.
Liftsharing offers the opportunity to have company so you’re not alone on your journey/s – but to get to know them first, unlike the people you share a train or bus trip with.
Liftshare does offer a gender filter when searching for a lift; so you can only share with those the same gender as you, if you prefer.
But realistically, how often is it used? Liftshare stats show that 49% of members are women. The filter is very popular, and we’re often asked about it, but in practice; female liftsharers are just as likely to share with men as they are with women.
Everyone using Liftshare is encouraged to message others and even meet before they agree to a share. There’s no time limit on making a decision, either – you can be in contact for as long as you like until you feel completely comfortable to make a decision as to whether or not you’d like to share a trip. Your mobile number (if you’ve verified it with us) won’t be shared with any other member until you confirm your plans to share, so you can remain just messaging until you’re sure. Your surname and address will never be given out.
Members of private Liftshare schemes, such as those set up by employers, may also find that registration is restricted by area or email address – so users can only register if they live or work in a certain area, building, or company.
We spoke to Paul Wilde, Founder of personal safety charity Just Give It A Thought. Paul promotes the concept of ‘network safety’. Network safety is the idea that by creating a culture of safety with your friends and family, you increase the safety of everyone in the group. It is a fairly simple idea that when applied can grow exponentially into a ‘culture’ that requires little or no conscious effort.
This applies very easily to liftsharing, and is directly in line with the advice that Liftshare already give. If your family, friends or partner, knows who you are travelling with, when you are travelling and when you safely reach your destination, then you have increased your ‘network safety’. This can be applied as little or as much as you are comfortable. For example, it could be something as small as ‘checking in’ at your destination, or as much as sending the details of your travelling companion to your friends and family. You can snap a pic of the car before you hop in, and send your location to contacts in real-time using a messaging app such as Whatsapp.
Paul says “Dealing with strangers can always present personal safety concerns, however the advantage of Liftsharing is that you have time to prepare. It is how you prepare and how you safeguard yourself during your car share that has the power to reduce any risk to your safety. For example, find out as much about the person you are meeting as you can, their name, where they work etc. You wouldn’t go on a date with someone without knowing a little about them, so why get in a car with them? Then, and perhaps most importantly, share this information with your family, friends or partner. If you do this, something as simple as a text to say everything is as it should be when you meet up with your sharer, coupled with a message to say you got to your destination safely, should be enough to make everyone feel at ease.”
The Liftshare Membership Team are available to talk through any safety concerns or worries that you may have. You can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org, call them directly on 01603 389131, or tweet at @Liftshare. No concern is too small to talk through, and if you feel at all uncomfortable, our advice will always be not to share.
If you have any safety tips or thoughts on how we could increase our trust and safety advice, let us know in the comments below!
Author Lex Barber