The UC Davis Police Department has acquired two new vehicles for the Safe Rides VIP wheelchair transportation service, expanding the 24-hour service for wheelchair users on campus.
“These two new vehicles will be used to help anyone in our UC Davis community who needs assistance to get to their residence or class,” said Ernesto Uribe Moron, manager of the Aggie Host Security service. The Safe Rides service is run by Aggie Host student employees, including trained student drivers. Uribe Moron is himself a recent UC Davis graduate and DACA recipient.
“The great thing about Safe Rides that it’s students helping students,” said Chief of Police Joe Farrow said. “There’s a demonstrated need that we’re trying to fill.”
Safe Rides was operating a single vehicle modified to be wheelchair accessible until last Fall, when it was damaged in a collision. Farrow credited e coté, case manager in the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs, with the impetus to purchase the new vans. As case manager, coté, who uses a singular letter as her first name, and lowercase for her first and last names, works to help students with disabilities.
“In Fall of 2019 I was working with two students using wheelchairs so when the van was in an accident and wasn’t available, I reached out to the Chief and he was able to get a loaner van,” she said.
The department was able to borrow a vehicle from UC San Diego and applied for funding from the UC Violent Acts Mitigation and Prevention program to purchase and equip new vehicles.
Having the vans is a big help, coté said, especially in rainy weather when puddles, slick surfaces and dirt pose extra obstacles for wheelchair users.
“We live in a flat environment, but what you perceive in a wheelchair is very different,” she said.
“We’re super excited,” said Jennifer Billeci, director of the Student Disability Center. The vehicles will be useful for students who use wheelchairs and need to get across campus, especially to outlying areas.
The vans are currently being fitted with lightbars and signage and should be ready for service at the beginning of Fall quarter.
Safe Rides provides free transportation for wheelchair users around campus and in the city of Davis 24 hours a day, and from campus locations to the City of Davis between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Priority pickups can be booked in advance, or ordered through the TapRide app or by calling 530-754-2677.
Apart from the VIP wheelchair service, Safe Rides service is currently suspended due to pandemic restrictions. The service may be reinstated as restrictions are relaxed, depending on the number of students on campus and in the community in need of the service, Uribe Moron said.