After Ally Brundige ’02 biked across the country in Habitat for Humanity’s 2001 Habitat Bicycle Challenge, she decided she wanted to make the trip again — this time for a political purpose.
Brundige and Vanessa Herald ’02 started Bike the Vote earlier this year. This summer, they will bike from New Haven to Portland, Ore., stopping in cities along the way to help local organizations register new voters. Currently, they said they are working to raise funds and recruit approximately five other people to travel with them.
“The very nature of a cross-country bike trip is conducive to energizing and registering people to vote,” Brundige said. “It encourages personal interactions and interest in a way that you don’t get by driving around.”
Both Herald and Brundige said that while their campaign is progressive, it is not linked to a particular candidate in this year’s presidential election.
Brundige said she is troubled by low voter turnout in the United States, particularly among people ages 18 to 24. Only 30 percent of the population in that age bracket voted in the last election, she said.
“The idea is to get as many people involved in terms of voter turnout as possible, and specifically to get those who haven’t been involved before,” she said. “And that typically means low-income, younger voters, and people of color.”
She said the group is working to raise $20,000 to finance the 75-day trip, in addition sponsorship they have already acquired from Amity Bicycles in Woodbridge, Conn. Bike the Vote will donate any extra money to America Votes, a partnership of voter registration organizations.
Although they have yet to send out letters soliciting funds, Bike the Vote is already accepting donations on its Web site. Herald said they also plan to sell t-shirts and hold a fundraising drive in New Haven next month.
Once the trip begins on June 20, Herald said she and Brundige will try to register voters at concerts and athletic events in cities on their route. She said they will stay longer in larger cities and hold events specifically focused on Bike the Vote. Major cities on the itinerary include Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Denver.
Herald said she and Brundige have been organizing the trip and finding support for “over a month.”
“It sort of was one of those lightning-flash ideas,” Herald said. “She asked me and I joined her. We just started working on it right away.”
Both decided the project was important enough for them to leave their jobs for the summer, she said.
While Brundige has biked across the country in the past, Herald said it is something she has always wanted to do but could not because of other commitments.
“I’ve been riding now for like a week, and it’s going to be a really big challenge to do it every day for three months, but I’m really excited for it,” she said. “We’re going on this amazing journey that’s going to be just overwhelmingly full of the unexpected.”
Brundige and Herald said they may make the trip again in the future, but will not decide for sure until they evaluate the results of this summer’s efforts.