Free travel to Salford polling stations by e-scooter during Thursday’s local elections

An e-scooter company is offering free rides in parts of Salford to encourage higher voter participation in Thursday’s local elections.

Lime is offering machines to anyone registered to vote at polling stations inside an area of the city.

A Department for Transport e-scooter trial has been running since October 2020, supported by Salford City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Younger voters may be drawn to the offer – lack of transportation to the ballot box is considered a drawback – and local elections have a very low turnout in the area.

Hal Stevenson at Lime said: “Access to affordable transport should never create a barrier to voting and we hope Lime users will ride to the polls and make their voices heard.”

Not all Salford citizens have been exercising their right to vote in recent local and national elections.

Electoral Commission data says that 26.1% of the city’s registered electors marked an ‘X’ in the 2018 metropolitan authority election, compared with 43% in Trafford and 32.3% nationally.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority reports that Salford submitted 89,406 verified ballot papers – 28.8% of those eligible – at the 2021 Mayor of Greater Manchester election.

This was the lowest of Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs – Trafford led the way with 44.9%.

Lime’s white scooters are now ubiquitous within wards such as Ordsall, Pendleton & Charlestown, Quays, Blackfriars and Trinity, and Weaste and Seedley, ridden widely and dropped off within parking zones inside a ‘geofence’.

ARE ‘FRIENDS’ ELECTRIC?: The Lime App scans the geofence to help you locate an available scooter

A boundary to the e-scooter’s performance and for policing misuse, the geofence limits where a ride can go and be ended – machines are not intended to function outside of it, in the ‘red-zone’ seen on the app required to activate a ride.

The area in Salford has expanded from its pilot phase at Peel Park campus to an area now including Salford Royal Hospital and MediaCity UK.

Our map estimates Lime e-scooters can reach 21 polling stations out of 140 currently listed by Salford City Council, within the geofence.

The place a registered person can submit their choice is pre-determined and listed in the pack voters should have received by now – a vote cannot be cast at another destination.

In Ordsall, 100% of voters who have a poll card and a driving licence – a requirement of scooter use – can use the two free journeys offered as all four polling stations are inside the geofence.

NOTHING’S CHANGED?: Voters with a poll card showing Salford Lad’s Club can travel for free to cast their vote on Thursday

The demographic and landscape of the Ordsall ward has changed significantly in the past decade as developers and regeneration has brought in overseas investment along with regional plans backed by local and national funding.

Salford City Council says the population of Ordsall increased by nearly 53% to 10,481 in the ten years to 2020 and recently completed apartments along the River Irwell should have seen that number grow further.

At the beginning of this decade those between the ages of 20 and 35 made up almost 47% of the population inside the ward.

This group also forms the majority of local users of Lime e-scooters in the area, according to a May 2021 report from academics at the University of Salford.

This two-wheeled incentive to take an active part in democracy does not directly address the wider reasons for young voter apathy such as not having enough information or not being able to tell the parties apart.

The 2015 general election was dominated by immigration but many younger people at that time were focussed on housing crises, greedy landlords, equality, representation and even online privacy within the overlapping identities of the generation.

Would-be councillors in the Ordsall ward are charged with taking on the ideas, needs and mood of nearly half of their electorate.

The opportunity to get out onto the streets and make a difference to local decision-making has just become a little bit easier.

Mancunian Matters recommends reading the FAQs and ‘how to ride’ guides before embarking on an e-scooter journey. A ride usually costs £1 to unlock the machine and 5p per minute travelled afterwards.

On Thursday 5 May, both new and existing riders will be able to redeem two free e-scooter rides using the promotional code: LIMETOPOLLSUK in the Lime app. All existing Lime riders will be notified of the code via in-app notifications.

Main Image by Steve-Houghton-Burnett on Unsplash.

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