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AAA will extend roadside assistance to bicycles

Posted by on July 7th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

The Oregon/Idaho chapter of the American Automobile Association (a.k.a. “Triple A”) is set to announce that their legendary roadside assistance plan will now cover people riding bicycles.

According to sources, the 50 million member non-profit auto lobbying group and service organization that was founded in 1902, is set to make the announcement in a press release tomorrow.

Thanks to the Internet, we can get a sneak peek at what they’ve got planned. Here’s how they introduce the service:

“You’ve been riding to save gas or stay in shape. For that, you deserve credit. Now AAA Plus provides you with added benefits to recognize your efforts and your lifestyle.”

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And here’s how it would work:

  • Bicycle transportation service is provided for the rider whose bicycle is disabled.
  • Service will be provided to any point of safety within a 25-mile radius of the bicycle breakdown.
  • Service applies to all bicycles and tandems, including rental bicycles.
  • Service is only available within the AAA Oregon/Idaho coverage area, which includes Oregon and the southern 34 counties of Idaho.

Four years ago, we covered a similar plan offered by the Better World Club, but this is the first I’ve heard of the AAA behemoth recognizing the growing number bike riders and including them in their product.

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  • chelsea July 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    that is awesome. way to keep up with the times AAA!

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  • patrickz July 7, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    That’s indeed good news. I’ve used their county maps to bike around and this rounds up the service.

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  • amos July 7, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Cool. I’ve always been back and forth on whether or not I should get AAA coverage, I think this will be the deciding factor for me. (Yes, I do own a car. It’s been great at collecting dust that would have otherwise fallen onto the street and found it’s way into our storm water system 🙂

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  • Disastronaut July 7, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    …plan will now cover people riding bicycles.

    If I may quote The Smiths: How soon is now?

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  • E July 7, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Is bicycle service included in regular auto club membership or is it additional? It costs $15 extra at Better World Club, and I don’t bother with it because I so rarely ride outside Trimet range. I agree it’s a brilliant idea though.

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  • shawn. July 7, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    While it’s good that AAA is (finally!) offering some assistance to bicyclists, I can’t help but feel this may be an attempt to “Greenwash.” AAA hasn’t exactly had the best track record, promoting the personal automobile at the expense of alternatives (transit, bicycle, whatever), going after the Clean Air Act and restrictions on tailpipe admissions, etc.

    Here’s some more info:

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  • rixtir July 7, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    AAA membership sends your dollars to an automobile lobbying organization.

    Better World Club provides the same kind of service for cyclists, without the pro-car, anti-bike agenda.

    So where do you want to spend your dollars?

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  • Matt Picio July 7, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    rixtir (#7) – I agree that a non- pro-car organization is a better place to send your money. That said, I applaud this, because it says that even the auto-centric AAA is willing to adapt, and it’s good to have choices. Many people who own cars and already have AAA will be able to take advantage of this program without having to add *another* company to the list of people they pay.

    Jonathan, did they say what their definition of “bicycle” is? Does it include trikes, unicycles, recumbents, or “non-standard” bicycle configurations like tallbikes / freakbikes?

    shawn (#6) – I’d rather have companies greenwashing than doing nothing, so long as there are people out there reminding everyone of a companies track record.

    We shouldn’t forget the past, but I believe in encouraging and acknowledging change when it appears. This is great news, and hopefully we’ll see it spread to other AAA regions.

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  • R-diddly July 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I just can’t get all warm & fuzzy over it, since this is the same organization that in 1993 was taking my dues money and using it to actively lobby the Oregon legislature AGAINST bike and transit funding. I wrote to the president of the club and told him in no uncertain terms that I didn’t appreciate it and canceled my membership. In fact that might’ve been the day I started identifying as car-free. So perhaps this has colored my opinion of them and that’s why this just seems like kissing up / bandwagon jumping / grudging opportunism (hey if we can’t force them off the roads, might as well make some money from them). Still I suppose it’s a step in the right direction. Hey AAA, call me when you offer a “bike only” plan.

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  • vic July 7, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    It comes with the AAAplus membership, which costs $39 more per year than the basic. Too bad–Sounds like Better World Club might be a a better deal.

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  • buzz July 7, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    This is great news! I got a discount on AAA from my employer and it is good to know that I can get some help now when I am on my bike.

    And, I am with you Matt (#8). Companies change their policies and this is a good change that shows they are changing with the times. If they continue to lobby against bike legislation, then that is not good. If enough people who use bikes buy the coverage, it gives cyclist a much more powerful voice if we threaten to not renew out memberships.

    Heck, remember Dick Cheney came out a few weeks ago saying he now supports gay marriage. So, anything is possible.

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  • Bill July 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    If I run out of gas, do they show up with Clif Bars?


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  • KruckyBoy July 7, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    AAA rocks. I have had nothing but positive experiences. I am already a AAAplus member so lucky me I guess.

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  • Anonymous July 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Great news!

    I’m very happy to hear this, because a month after going car free, my lovely grandmother decided to buy me a membership to AAA (plus) for Christmas. She was worried my old car would break down on me during the winter as I was living in Eugene and visiting here (although I was taking the train or hitching rides to get up here… ), but finally it’ll have some use if I do break down somewhere, which is great.

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  • kiwimunki July 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    As consumers, we vote with our dollars to engender change. This is the kind of change we were hoping to see, right? A pro-car lobbying voice changing its tune in response to public feedback?

    They’ve made a significant change in their business plan to suit their paying customers. Good on them. Forgive them their trespasses of old, and pat yourselves on the back for using your power as consumers to bring about a much-appreciated improvement in service.

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  • Blair July 8, 2009 at 12:28 am

    AAA is an automobile LOBBY. Do NOT give them any money.

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  • Joe July 8, 2009 at 6:53 am

    I’m with BETTER WORLD – no auto lobbying plus they are local, right here in Portland! I’ve had to get my car towed with them and they were super prompt.

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  • E July 8, 2009 at 7:58 am

    I think Better World Club also offers bike only service.
    I have Better World – just the car coverage. I went with them instead of AAA for many of the reasons mentioned above. They are great. 🙂 I do, however, appreciate the shift in AAA’s thinking and the consumer power that made it happen. Yay members! 😀

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  • Aaron July 8, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I agree with Rixter and Vic. It’s great to see AAA acknowledging alternative modes of transportation. But they are foremost an Auto lobbying group as Shawn’s link proves. They lobbied against safe routes to school and other funding which protects children.
    Since that’s their record, I wouldn’t join even if I did drive. Go with Better World

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  • mykle July 8, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Ditto. To a lot of people, AAA is synonymous with Roadside Assistance Insurance, but there are lots of other providers that don’t have a long history of anti-bike lobbying. I dropped them like a snake when I found out about their history.

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  • Matt Picio July 8, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Great comments, everyone – to which I’d like to add:

    Don’t go with Better World, or AAA, or anyone else, based on the recommendations of people here. Do the research, and make your OWN decision.

    (Obviously the experiences others have with a particular company are part of that research)

    I hope this is AAA figuring out that they can’t keep actively working against bikes, that it’s hurting their business. In any case, their entry into this market is going to encourage others to enter it as well, and the result hopefully will be better policies and service. Vote with your $$$ and choose the provider that is the best fit for you.

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  • steve July 8, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Saddest thing I have read in a while-
    “I’d rather have companies greenwashing than doing nothing..”

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  • Samantha July 8, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    It’s not hard to see how transparent AAA’s marketing efforts are when you consider the history and weight of their political/financial purpose…

    one car for every person, one member for every car.

    Even if it seems to change its stripes–this beast still bites!

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  • SharpBkr July 8, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    This is all backwards. The League of American Bicyclists should be offering car towing and road side bicycle repair. Why you might ask? Because the $100 you send to AAA isn’t just sitting there waiting for you to call, instead it’s used for lobbying. When you join the AAA you’re supporting the automotive lobby, not the bicycle lobby. You got to give AAA credit for slipping this on unsuspecting bicyclists.

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  • Lisa G July 8, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Ha! I switched over to Better World Club several years ago and I know I’m not alone..this proves it as now AAA wants to be competetive in Oregon. They still have a long way to go. It’s better that a company walks (or bikes) their talk so I’m sticking with BWC. Still, it’s good to see the influence we are having.

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  • Bjorn July 9, 2009 at 12:47 am

    AAA continues to actively lobby against bicycle bills and did so this year in Oregon. I dropped my membership over it and told them as much. Perhaps others did to and this is their attempt at PR, I don’t think their anti bike legislative practices will change due to this program.

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  • Abny July 10, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Great for AAA, but roadside assistance is not nearly as necessary for a cyclist, who, chances are isn’t as far away from things as a driver might be when stranded, as insurance is. I’ve been hit many times while riding my bike in Philly — most times hit and run accidents where the driver drives away — and have to rely on my own bank account to fix my bike and tend to my injuries. Plus, the lack of insurance makes the police take the whole thing less seriously; often glazing over the details of the accident. Does Oregon allow cyclists to get insurance on their bike like you can on a vehicle?

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