In total, Lyft said there were 4,158 reports of sexual assault on the app from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2019; this included 360 reports of rape. Lyft said its definitions were overly broad to collect as wide a data set as possible.
“We recognize that sexual assault is chronically underreported, and it can sometimes be months or years before a survivor is ready to come forward and report what happened — if they choose to do so at all,” the company wrote. “Knowing this, Lyft included any incident reported in 2017, 2018 and 2019, regardless of when the incident was reported to have occurred. Lyft intentionally uses broad definitions … to classify instances of sexual assault.”
Lyft initially committed to releasing its safety report three years ago following pressure on rival Uber on the safety of its app and transparency around the issue of sexual assault.
Uber, a larger ride-hailing company that has the majority of the U.S. market share, released its report in late 2019, disclosing there were around 6,000 total reports of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018.
Lyft indicated its report would follow shortly after Uber’s, but only released it Thursday covering a period through 2019.
Lyft did not immediately provide comment on the report or the timing of its release.
Lyft has come under scrutiny for its treatment of sexual harassment and misconduct on the app. The company won over many passengers in the wake of repeated scandals on Uber that led to the #DeleteUber movement, capturing nearly 40 percent of the U.S. market share as it approached its 2019 initial public offering. But The Washington Post reported in 2019 that some found Lyft’s response to reports of misconduct inadequate and dismissive, feeling their concerns were not seriously addressed.
The Post spoke with nearly a dozen women who decried Lyft’s response to allegations of sexual harassment at the time.
Lyft has pledged to improve its safety practices over the years, noting the issue is a work in progress. Like Uber, Lyft noted that the overwhelming majority of rides ended without incident.
For both companies, the problem appeared to grow worse by year — as the companies’ businesses grew over the period encompassed by the reports and the issue rose in prominence. For example, Uber logged 3,045 reports of sexual assault in 2018, the latest full year covered in its report. Lyft logged 1,807 reports in 2019, the latest year in its report.
“The safety incidents referenced in this report account for 0.0002% of all trips,” Lyft wrote in its safety report. The company defined “safety incidents” in the report as “motor vehicle fatalities, fatal physical assaults and five subcategories of sexual assault.”
But the problem of sexual assault went beyond numbers, the company wrote, and it was releasing the data in an effort to shine light on the extent of the issue. The issue of sexual assault on ride-hailing platforms has gained attention as the companies have grown and the issue of pairing riders with strangers in their personal vehicles has gained attention on social media and among law enforcement.
“This report details the frequency of some of the most serious safety incidents that are reported to Lyft, which are statistically very rare,” Lyft wrote. “But behind every number, there is a person who experienced that incident. Put simply, even one of these incidents is too many. That is what drives our relentless work to continuously improve safety for riders and drivers.”
Of the five subcategories of sexual assault defined in the report, the most common on a yearly basis was nonconsensual touching of a sexual body part.
Lyft collected 598 such reports for 2017, 661 for 2018 and 1,041 for 2019, it said.
Lyft said it does not automatically report such incidents to law enforcement, deferring to the wishes of the person who makes the report. The company provides support services, it said, including information on how to reach organizations providing counseling and crisis intervention, in addition to emotional support and ways to reach law enforcement.
“Generally speaking, individuals who are accused of committing the types of incidents detailed in this report will be permanently removed from the Lyft community, preventing them from riding or driving in the future,” Lyft wrote.
The company said it would work to protect its passengers.
“In putting the safety of its community members as its top priority, Lyft takes all reported incidents seriously and thoroughly investigates each one,” wrote Jennifer Brandenburger, Lyft’s head of policy development and research, in the report. “Lyft’s Safety Specialists are trained to approach each case with respect and care. Doing so helps protect drivers and riders and makes the Lyft community safer for all.”