Basketball star LeBron James and his company Uninterrupted are teaming up with ridesharing company Lyft to give thousands of young people across the country free access to bikes.
James said riding bikes gave him a sense of independence growing up as a kid in inner-city Akron, Ohio.
“What bikes did for me was [allow me] to travel across the city with my friends, get me from home to school, or, you know, get to basketball practices or football practices,” he said Tuesday at the YMCA in Harlem where he and Lyft announced the new program.
They plan to launch it this spring in New York City before expanding it to Chicago and the Bay area later in the year.
Biking allowed James to clear his mind, he said, adding “it’s a segue to be able to do so many things that can also carry you for the rest of your life.” He was at the Y to help surprise 50 New York teenagers with a free bike membership.
For Lyft, the partnership is part of their efforts to offer transportation access to those who need it most. They plan to offer thousands of free bikeshare memberships to people affiliated with the YMCA who meet certain income requirements and are between the ages of 16 to 20.
“Taking care of the local communities is both the right thing to do and good for business,” John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft said in an interview with CNBC.
The partnership came about from Lebron’s business partner Maverick Carter. Carter and the Lyft co-founder have known each other since Lyft’s earliest days.
“He was one of the first people to believe in me and the company,” says Zimmer. “We always wanted to find a way to work together and find something truly authentic,” he added.
James’ company Uninterrupted will help with the production and videos associated with the new bikeshare program.
“With LeBron as our inspiration, we want to demonstrate how transportation can be a spark that helps young people reach their full potential,” says Zimmer.
The announcement builds on Lyft’s existing bikeshare program and their LyftUp initiative which seeks to improve people’s lives through better transportation. The company has invested $50 million or 1% of its profits every year into access programs.
Future transportation needs to be accessible to everyone, Carter tells CNBC. “This is just the beginning of this partnership,” Carter says. “It can go so many places.”
Shares of Lyft are down more than 30% since going public last March. Lyft is one of a number of high-profile unicorn companies that went public with a market value of more than $1 billion last year. It’s now facing growing skepticism among public investors for growing losses and future profitability.
According to the company, more than 4.5 million Americans don’t have access to affordable or reliable transportation and this can be felt the hardest on young people.
Lyft acquired Motivate in late 2018, making them the largest bikeshare service in the country.
This isn’t the first time James has given back to his community with bicycles. In 2018, James provided students who attend his I Promise school students 240 free bikes and helmets. He founded the school to educate students who were labeled with behavior problems among the worst performers in the Akron public schools.
Lyft reports its next quarterly earnings Feb. 11.