“I really love your app but you need a safe mode for late night travel.”
Whether you’re that person who grips the sharp end of your keys between your fingers, pretends you’re on the phone, or simply picks up the pace, unfortunately most women will know what it’s like to feel unsafe when they’re walking alone at night.
Now, one woman has taken to Twitter to relay her experience of travelling alone in London after midnight, after the route she was given by navigation app Citymapper left her feeling at risk.
Lil Patuck (@LilPatuck) found herself stranded after she missed the last district line tube home, a route that Citymapper had suggested would be quicker than getting the night bus, which could have taken her safely all the way home.
“Hi @Citymapper,” Patuck wrote. “I really love your app but you need a safe mode for late night travel.”
“The route you gave me on Saturday was pretty ropey,” she added, “luckily I hadn’t been drinking.”
She went on to express her concern about the route – including the fact that she was not told that the train would be the last one of the night – via a note attached to the tweet.
“00:46 on a Saturday night in London,” the note begins. “I could have gotten a night bus all the way home but you told me it would be quicker to get the overground then the district line.”
“But it was the last district train of the night. If you had told me then I wouldn’t have taken this route, because I missed the transfer by a few seconds,” she continues.
Patuck then goes on to detail what happened next. She says the app sent her on a deserted walk through central London to St. Pauls, only for her to find out it was closed. She was then directed to take a 14 minute walk through “dark, creepy alleyways” to Chancery Lane.
“Luckily I didn’t drink this evening and had enough sense to disregard your directions,” she adds. “But what about everyone else?”
While Citymapper already features “rain safe” and “cold safe” routes, there is still no such thing as a “night” mode on the app, which could take into account things such as whether or not a route is lit, or avoid potentially dangerous areas such as alleyways.
“Whoever leads, tech needs sensitive responsible design” she said. “ie. rather than telling a user to “go catch this train”, also tell them: “it’s the last one – are you sure? Here’s a safe alternative.””
The need for such a service is evidently clear. According to the latest Crime Survey of England and Wales, one in five women have experienced sexual assault.
As Patuck’s experience shows, we need developers to take greater notice of reality; and how missing the last train can translate into something much more serious than an extended journey time.
Enter Safe & The City, an app leading the way in making travel a little safer.
Launched in 2018, the app alerts users when they are approaching an area where crimes have been reported – an allows users to rate routes based on street safety, lighting and trustworthiness of the people around them.
It also allows users to report any incidents of verbal or physical harassment, so others are aware of predators who may frequent particular areas.
Founded and led by Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe & The City is a reminder of how effective female-led product design can be – and, hopefully, gives us an insight into what the future of navigation could look like.