Bolt for Women
  • Ride-hailing app Bolt now offers the option to ask for a woman driver.
  • It doesn't have many of those, yet, so waiting times could be an issue – but it is working on that too.
  • Lots of work is needed to make both drivers and passengers comfortable with ride hailing amid pervasive gender-based violence, Bolt says.
  • Women have been launching other women-only taxi services at a rapid pace.
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Users of the Bolt ride-hailing service can now request a woman driver, the company said on Thursday.

The "Women Only" service was wildly popular in a pilot in East London and Rustenburg in November, Bolt said, and is now available across the country, both in major centres and in the likes of Polokwane and Mbombela.

Bolt's driver registration system includes checking the gender on identity documents. When a rider specifies a woman driver, the request is simply not shown to male drivers.

If a woman driver arrives at a pickup point expecting a woman and a man is waiting, drivers "are not penalised in any way if they cancel a trip", said Bolt.

There is no extra charge for the service, but Bolt says less than 5% of its drivers are women, which suggests users may wait significantly longer for a woman driver.

More than half of its riders are women, according to Bolt.

Ideally there should not be a need for a women-only service, said Bolt country manager Gareth Taylor in a statement, "but unfortunately it is", given pervasive gender-based violence in South Africa. 

Making the platform safe for women – including drivers, and so attracting more – needs more work, Bolt said. It is already funding installation of Perspex barriers between passenger and driver for female drivers.

Women-only transport services, typically small local operations, have been rapidly popping up across South Africa, with names such as Ladies Own TransportWomen Go, and ChaufHer, in response to what founders say are growing problems with harassment – or worse – on public transport. 

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