Folding Bikes Blog

AAA Expands Bicycle Assistance Program

The American Automobile Association, or as most know it AAA, is by definition a motorist’s organization. AAA was originally created in response to a lack of roadways suitable for automobiles in the early 20th century. While that certainly isn’t a problem anymore, AAA still lobbies heavily for various highway initiatives, and offers a variety of services intended specifically for car owners. Their emergency roadside services are by far their most popular. AAA members can get tire changes, towing services, or help with lockouts at any time. Historically, AAA hasn’t been particularly bike friendly, but you may not know that AAA amazingly offers roadside bicycle assistance as well.

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They began bicycle assistance in select areas in 2009, but the program has recently been expanding. Montague’s home city of Boston is in the territory of AAA Southern New England, which just announced the start of their bicycle benefits. For all levels of AAA membership, stranded cyclists can call the same 800 number they normally do and receive transportation for themselves and their bicycle to their home,vehicle, or other location free of charge (within a limited range).

The bicycle benefits also extend to INsider, the AAA free program for teenagers age 13 – 16. While it is certainly a great step that cycling is being embraced by perhaps the most car-centric organization in the US, it’s not without it’s flaws.

All the AAA press releases and marketing materials I’ve seen perpetuate the American perception that cycling is something kids do, or that it’s just a fitness or leisure activity. The images of children riding along a path in the park do little to promote cycling as an actual viable means of transportation. While those of us who do commute by bicycle on a daily basis can certainly take advantage of the services, AAA is coming up a bit short of actually promoting transportation cycling. Although, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. They certainly want to support their members who do ride bicycles, and they certainly want to appear bicycle friendly, but I don’t think they want everyone giving up their automobile in favor of the bicycle.

I don’t mean to sound like too much of a downer. Anytime cooperation and understanding can be had between cyclists and motorists, it’s a very good thing. Perhaps someday AAA will be lobbying for bike lanes too.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    • While this is a good development, one thing that a lot of people aren’t aware of is that AAA is a lobbying organization, and they have fought vigorously against money going to bikes and transit, on the grounds that the money should be spent accommodating cars. I can’t in good conscience join such an organization.

  2. Posted April 30, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Excellent point Jym. I alluded to that fact a bit, that they have historically been very against alternative transportation. That’s why this feels a bit like a feeble attempt to appear pro-bike. I found it amusing that the wording on their site says their bicycle assistance can pick you up and bring you back to your car. Of course I drove my car to where I’m riding my bike. Why would I ever use a bike for actual transportation? /s

    I was trying to look on the bright side a little with this post.

  3. Jeff Gindin
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I think that this raises all sorts of issues but most of all I see it as hedging their bet. What if commuting went (in the U.S.) from <1% to 2% much less 4%? They still won't have much of conflict with their mission but it may represent a real opportunity for AAA. I don't know what the cost / will be at higher volumes but think of the peace of mind factor if you commute daily and can't be late for work.Genuine or not it is a good marketing strategy for the U.S. market given that our commutes are much longer than in Europe.

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