About a year ago, AAA, announced that it’s long-time car-only roadside assistance plan will now feature services for roadside bicycles in Oregon and Idaho. AAA, a 50 million member n0n-profit auto lobbying group founded in 1902, is a federation of 51 independently operated motor clubs throughout North America. The organization provides services to its members related to travel, automotive and insurance. AAA serves about one-sixth of the U.S. population.
AAA’s new program works as such:
- Bicycle transportation service is provided to the rider whose bicycle is disabled.
- Service extends to any point of safety within a 25-mile radius of the bicycle breakdown.
- Service applies to all bicycles including rentals.
Mother Jones thinks AAA’s service was launched to compete with Better World Club, which offers a carbon offset service, eco-travel services, discounts on hybrid car rental, and was the nation’s only bicycle roadside assistance program until AAA’s launch.
A year ago, when AAA rolled out the program, it marked a crucial step in public awareness of the importance of biking. Despite this program, AAA is still known for supporting anti-bike and anti-transit policy, like increased highway funding, lower gasoline taxes, and reduced vehicle regulations. The organization recently defended itself, arguing that federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) money should be exclusively for highway funding and not include trails for walking, hiking and biking. AAA later split hairs on this issue, arguing that they were adv0cating only for this specific pot of money to go to Highways:
We will not call on Congress to de-fund trail, walking and bicycling programs. We are simply calling for a change of accounting, not actually the elimination of any programs.
David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington says AAA’s statements insult the transportation advocates’ intelligence.
But there are other options, such as Better World Club, which provides “environmentally friendly auto coverage” and is the only nationwide 24/7 auto service that provides assistance to bicycles. One percent of its revenue goes to environmental advocacy. The blog, BikePortland.org says,
If you’re a commuter and you break down, you’ll probably get help from a fellow cyclist or be within walking distance of a local shop. But still, this is a nifty service and it just might be that extra security some people need to start riding more.
Better World Auto Club perceives AAA’s service as greenwashing. At the very least, if you do have a car or want roadside biking assistant do some research on your options before making any purchases.