There are a lot of reasons why people don’t vote, but one is simple: For some, it’s too difficult to get to the polls. In the 2016 election, more than 15 million voters said that they didn’t vote because of transportation issues. This year, in a few cities, those voters will have the option of taking a free ride on a bike share bike to vote.
Motivate, the largest bike share system operator in North America, is offering free rides on all of its systems on November 6, including Citi Bike in New York and Jersey City, Divvy in Chicago, Bluebikes in Boston, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis, Ford GoBike in the Bay Area, Biketown in Portland, Oregon, and CoGo in Columbus, Ohio. To get the ride, riders can enter “Biketovote” in their local bike share app (or “Vote18” in Chicago).
The offer might help people of color, who are more likely to say that transportation is a factor in not voting. “When we see polling places being closed, often in communities of color, the new assigned polling place for these communities is sometimes too far away, and there have been previous reports in past elections of people saying that because the polling place is too far away, they’re going to sit out that election,” says Danielle Root, voting rights manager for democracy and government at the nonpartisan policy institute Center for American Progress. (Though bike shares have some issues around the country in serving communities of color in the first place.)
The offer might also make a difference for younger voters in particular. In the 2016 election, 6 million Americans under 29 were registered to vote but didn’t go to the polls; in the 2014 midterms, 12.5 million young voters didn’t vote. In one survey, many said that they didn’t like the candidates or didn’t have time to leave work or school. But 29% said that lack of transportation was a “major factor.” The number is higher for young people of color.
Motivate’s offer follows one from Lyft, which will give discounts and free rides to polls to “underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation,” working in partnership with organizations like Vote.org, which will distribute free codes. Uber is also working with nonprofits to offer free rides on Election Day, and added a button to the app to help voters find their polling place.