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Free Bikes to the Polls Next Tuesday — From Motivate

12:56 PM PDT on October 29, 2018

The Bay Area’s Ford GoBike bike-share system is owned by Lyft, which bought Motivate. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Pedal to the meddle.

Voters in nine cities will get free rides to and from their local polling places — and, in fact, unlimited biking all day — on Nov. 6, thanks to the company that runs Citi Bike, Divvy, Capital Bikeshare and the systems in five other big cities.

Motivate says the goal of the Election Day giveaway is simple: to get people to the polls who might otherwise not have easy ways of getting there.

“Too many Americans don’t vote because they lack reliable and affordable transportation options," said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Motivate, which runs bike share systems nationwide.

Motivate said it was, um, motivated by a recent study suggesting that 35 percent of young Americans who never went to college and 19 percent of those who did said poor transportation inhibited them from voting. (Of course, the same study revealed that 65 percent of the 18- to 29-year olds didn't like the candidates, a problem that no bike-share system has figured out how to solve.)

Fifteen percent of youth overall — and 38 percent of minority youths — said that lack of transportation to their polling place was a “major factor” for not voting.

Residents of New York and Jersey City (Citi Bike), Boston (Bluebikes), Minneapolis (Nice Ride Minnesota), the S.F. bay area (Ford GoBike), Portland (BIKETOWN), Columbus, Ohio (CoGo), and Washington, D.C. (Capital Bikeshare) can unlock Motivate bikes all day on Nov. 6 with the code BIKETOVOTE. Divvy users in Chicago will have to use the code VOTE18.

Motivate said it doesn't know how many people will take advantage of the special deal, but the company does operate tens of thousands of bike share cycles nationwide, each bike being used multiple times per day. Roughly 80 percent of all bike share trips in America last year were made on a Motivate bike. That said, the company is also experiencing a repair crisis in New York that is leaving it thousands of bikes short of its promised fleet size of 12,000, though its numbers are improving.

Motivate added that it would not reconfigure its app to show the locations of polling places, as Uber and Lyft say they will do. Indeed, it is too late to register to vote, so many residents of the nine Motivate cities will no doubt get nothing on Election Day ... but a free ride.

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