BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A local transportation provider has teamed up with a tech company to launch a new app and expand its services to people around West Michigan.
Ride YourWay, which was founded in 2018, is a transportation service for people with disabilities or other specific needs that may not be met by a typical ride-sharing service. The app – called “GO MUVE” was produced by MUVE – My Universal Vision for Everyone – another company focused on fully inclusive mobility technology.
Tom Sikkema, the CEO and founder of Ride YourWay, said the company’s vision is to “remove the barriers in a world that prevent people from living their best life.” He believes the app is a more helpful tool to do just that.
Previously, riders could contact Ride YourWay through a dispatch center to schedule rides. Now, the app allows users to set up a profile to list their specific needs and schedule rides, including an immediate price estimate.
Sikkema said his company prides itself on two things. The first? Quality.
“(In our talks with MUVE) we started to talk about some of the challenges people face when trying to access transportation,” Sikkema told News 8. “A couple of those were finding a reliable ride, so getting good quality transportation riders that have a good track record and are more of a quality-based company compared to just operating off of volume.”
He is quick to point out that Ride YourWay is the only five-star rated transportation company in West Michigan. Every driver is certified in first aid and CPR, and each driver undergoes a compassion training course to understand how to handle delicate situations.
“(Our drivers) are very well versed in how to handle wheelchairs, how to restrain them in a proper, safe manner,” Sikkema said. “We are really trying to set that standard and provide a high-quality ride and live up to the Ride YourWay name.”
The other? Transparency. Sikkema said it dates back to 2013 when he was being treated for brain cancer at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
“My life completely changed, and I started to see things from the perspective of somebody that might face mobility challenges,” Sikkema said. “You know, going out and getting dinner or going to a movie or to a Whitecaps game. That’s something that many people don’t think twice about. But there are certain barriers in our community that stand between that life people want to live and the mobility challenges they face.”
The app’s other main feature is a crowdsourced tagging feature that allows users to rate places based on handicap accessibility.
“Anyone is able to access this tagging feature and assess different places,” Sikkema said. “Movie theaters, different venues in town. Any building within West Michigan, somebody is able to assess based off five to seven different questions based around wheelchair accessibility. And based on how those questions are answered, it will generate a little beg. It will either be green if it’s 100% wheelchair accessible, orange if it’s pretty much wheelchair accessible, but there’s some barriers that might (cause problems). And then red if there’s too many barriers and it’s inaccessible.”
“It just allows people to kind of plan out their outing instead of getting to a location and seeing there’s a four-inch lip to get into this restaurant. We’re not able to go there. We have to pick another spot. It just gives people that autonomy,” he continued.
While the rides are a touch more expensive than your typical pickup, Sikkema said Ride YourWay makes up for it in quality.
“There’s more needs that are being met, so it is a little bit more expensive than a standard Uber or Lyft ride. But all things considered, we are one of the most affordable companies here in Michigan,” Sikkema told News 8. “It really just depends on how far we are transporting the patient. So, it could be anywhere from $20 to $30, and it can go up from there.”
Ride YourWay shifted focus when the pandemic hit, moving from ride-sharing to delivering COVID-19 test samples. With more people now venturing outside of the home, the company’s primary focus has returned and is starting to grow.
According to Sikkema, the company provided a little over 500 rides from between June and December of 2021. So far this year, the company has given more than 2,300 rides.
The company has grown from one vehicle to five wheelchair-accessible vans and plans to purchase another five to 10 more by the end of the year.
“We’re really looking to scale up and looking forward to allowing the MUVE app to do what was intended to do: break down those barriers and provide people with a resource to get out of their homes or wherever they might be and be able to enjoy everything West Michigan has to offer,” Sikkema said.
The “Go MUVE” app is available for free in the Apple and Android App stores.