Despite recent reports of women being harassed and assaulted when using ride-sharing apps, many female passengers still view Ola and Uber as the safest — and most convenient — modes of transport. Rather than “ride pink” with women-friendly autos and buses, most prefer to utilise an array of security strategies to rest calm and connected in transit.
Marketing professional Madhura Vittal (28) uses Ola and Uber to commute to work every day. She often travels at odd hours and lengthy distances, such as to the airport, so she takes precautions. Overall, her experience has been pleasant.
“I’ve heard of a few incidents where women were molested recently on the way to the airport. That got me a little worried, but I’ve had no personal instances as such,” Madhura said, adding, “I stay on a call with a friend when I’m travelling during odd hours. I keep them posted in advance of my travel plans.”
Madhura said that some of her friends use live-tracking tools on the apps or share their locations via WhatsApp. Should she ever need it, Madhura always packs a secret weapon: “I never forget to carry my pepper spray.”
Students Gabriella A (18), Aafia F (19), and Lian L (19) use the apps two to three times per week, usually when traveling late at night. They often notify family, who track their journey. “Usually, there’s an estimation time, so if you don’t reach on time, your family can check up on you,” Aafia said.
The three friends all agreed that they feel safe riding with Ola and Uber. While they acknowledge the importance of the “SOS” emergency buttons available on the apps, none of the women knew anyone who had ever used them. “Compared to catching an auto by yourself, the apps are better,” Gabriella said.
Not all cities, however, feel equally safe. Jaipur-born Rashmi Michael (46) recently moved to Bengaluru from Delhi to start a bakery business. Even though she’s only been here for five months, her experience has been 180 degrees from living in Jaipur and “nightmarish” Delhi.
“There is a marked difference in the attitude of drivers and general atmosphere in both cities. Delhi I have never quite felt comfortable taking a cab. I don’t know if it is because of the general aggressiveness of the city or the fact that I find the drivers in Delhi hostile,” Rashmi said, adding, “I have never ever felt fearful in Bangalore while using Ola or Uber, even when I have used the service late in the night. I find the drivers very easy to communicate with, polite, and minding their own business.”
Among women who have suffered negative experiences with male drivers, however, a common suggestion is to ride with a female driver instead. Last year, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike launched a pink autos programme for women and children, equipped with a variety of safety measures. But simply look around, and you’ll find that yellow still dominates the street. The problem? Few women came forward to drive.
Some, perhaps, have decided to drive Ola instead. Ola auto driver Noor Jahan, who runs her own driving school in Bengaluru, told the DH that she knows approximately 40 female drivers currently attempting to onboard with Ola. Moreover, Jahan reported that her female patrons have said they feel safer riding with a female driver. Jahan said that she, herself, feels safe as a female driver: She sticks to regular daytime hours, keeps close to the city, and frequently touches base with nearby members of the auto-driving community.
Aashumita Gupta (26), a retail planner who frequently travels to and from the airport, said she doesn’t feel the need to book a cab with a female driver. Like many others, she sends the trip info to her emergency contact and stays vigilant.
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