Goodman: SafeRide, we have a problem

Goodman: SafeRide, we have a problem

Meredith Goodman, Columnist

Like most college kids, I celebrated my 21st birthday by having drinks at a local bar around midnight. After a 2 a.m. run to Cheesie’s for cheese curds, I called SafeRide to get back to campus. But when I told them that I wanted to be picked up from Cheesie’s, the operator responded that SafeRide doesn’t pick up students from places that serve alcohol after 10 p.m.

Instead of taking a SafeRide back to campus, my incredibly considerate sorority sister walked me back and then proceeded to walk herself back to her apartment at Ridge and Noyes. By refusing to accept my call for transportation, SafeRide potentially put two students in danger. Had my friend not walked me back, I would have been forced to walk alone back to campus, as we were not particularly close to a shuttle stop. But my sister had an even more dangerous route — she had to walk to Ridge and Noyes at 2 a.m., a notoriously sketchy off-campus location, just because SafeRide wouldn’t pick us up from Cheesie’s.

And that, SafeRide, is why we have a problem. We have a problem because this University-run service disregarded my safety, because I was in an establishment that served alcohol (note: SafeRide’s policy is to not pick up passengers at bars after 10 p.m., which may hurt students who are at bar-like restaurants like Cheesie’s but may not be drinking). We have a problem because the friend that chose to do the right thing by walking me back to campus put herself in potential danger by walking alone at night.

I understand why the University created this policy. They don’t want drunk, belligerent students using SafeRide and possibly harming the drivers. They don’t want vomit in their cars. They don’t want SafeRide to turn into an on-demand taxi service for students.

But the University has to recognize that college students will go out and drink at bars. And sometimes students may drink so much that they need help getting back to their residences. Expecting these students to walk to the nearest shuttle stop, as SafeRide instructs, may be compromising their safety. If we can protect a student’s safety with something as quick and easy as a five-minute ride to their apartment, then we should commit to that.

That brings me to the newest SafeRide policy, which forbids off-campus to off-campus rides. This means that people like my friend, who live far off campus on Ridge and Noyes, are now subject to even greater risks. This means that students who go study with others in downtown Evanston will have to walk back to their apartments at night. Of course, it does bring a dramatic decrease in wait times (“from about 40 minutes to 15 minutes”), but is this worth it at the cost of student safety? I would not want any of my friends to have to walk alone at night.

I understand that SafeRide doesn’t want to be taken advantage of as a taxi service. Students should be expected to plan ahead if they go out at night (walk in groups, take the shuttle, etc.). But sometimes, SafeRide is the only sensible way to get home. As a female friend pointed out, “I’m OK waiting for a shuttle at midnight, but if I’m a single female waiting at a bus stop at 2 a.m., I fear for my safety.” Some students live so far off campus (I’m looking at you, Ridge and Noyes) that they cannot possibly walk more than 20 minutes in the dark alone. And SafeRide should be there for these students.

Reversing these policies could result in longer wait times. But I believe that to make a commitment for every student’s safety, SafeRide should not refuse rides based on pick-up or drop-off locations. SafeRide has a responsibility to ensure that all of our Northwestern peers remain safe.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].