UC Berkeley alumna escapes Lyft after driver veers into woods

Leonie Leonida/Staff

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After a harrowing Lyft ride early Friday morning, UC Berkeley alumna Brittney Sundquist made a post that went viral.

Sundquist said she was nearly kidnapped and was driven almost four miles away from her destination into the woods. To escape, she said in her post that she jumped out of the car and ran. Sundquist said the Oakland police officer who took her statement told her that this wasn’t the first time they heard about a similar incident in her neighborhood.

“I am so shocked that this has been happening in our area and I didn’t know about it,” Sundquist said.

On the night of the incident, Sundquist came to UC Berkeley’s campus to attend a speech by novelist Margaret Atwood. She said she went out for drinks with friends afterward and took a Lyft home about 2 a.m.

Her first Lyft drove all the way to her neighborhood before sharply turning into a “very desolate and wooded area,” she said. The map of her ride shows that she was dropped off at Dimond Canyon park. She alleges that her driver did not drop her off there and instead drove her into the woods.

“I remember being upset and confused and scared,” Sundquist said. “I remember running through the woods.”

She ordered another Lyft home, 20 minutes later, from Montclair, which is a neighborhood nearly four miles away from her home and one mile away from Dimond Park, where her first Lyft driver alleged she was dropped off.

On Friday, Sundquist posted on Facebook about the incident. She initially hoped to inform her circle of friends, but the post has nearly 8,000 likes and more than 29,000 shares as of press time.

Lyft confirmed that it received word of the incident. Lyft spokesperson Kate Margolis said in an email that the driver was fired and that Lyft hopes to cooperate with law enforcement throughout this investigation.

“What is being described is horrific,” Margolis said in an email. “We have reached out to the passenger to extend our full support and the driver has been permanently banned from the Lyft platform.”

Oakland Police Department spokesperson Officer Johnna Watson said in an email that the department is taking the allegation “very seriously” and that investigators are working on the case.

Sundquist and Amanda Wood, one of Sundquist’s close friends, started a MoveOn petition to require ride-sharing services to allow women and others who feel “vulnerable” to request a female driver so that they may feel safer. The petition has almost reached the 10,000 signature goal.

“I was furious and devastated and gutted that this had happened to anyone, but especially someone I would consider like family,” Wood said. “I immediately felt that I wanted to do something about this.”

Wood also drives for Lyft and said she understands the importance of riders feeling safe.

“It’s important to me that other women who use the service don’t let a scary incident deter them from using the service,” Wood said. “I don’t want those who are vulnerable to violence to live in fear, but I want people to be aware of what’s happening in their communities.”

Contact Madeleine Gregory at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.