Wednesday, July 15, 2009

AAA To Extend Roadside Assistance to Cyclists in Oregon

Our local newspaper carried this story a few days back, about how AAA will now be extending its Roadside Assistance services to members on bikes. I think this is really exciting news and I'm going to optimistically take it as more evidence of that bicycle tipping point thing I was mentioning recently. As AAA members, our family is ecstatic to know that if we're out on our bikes somewhere on a back road and we get a mechanical problem that we can't fix, we can call up AAA and get a ride home. This is especially invaluable when we've got the kids on the tandems, a situation that's much more difficult than just being a lone stranded cyclist (especially when the kiddos get tired, or hungry, or you really don't feel like flagging down just anyone to give you a lift back with the kids along.)

To be honest though, I was really disappointed to read the responses from local cyclists that they printed along within the article. I'm going to hope that these comments were taken out of context or something, but I think sometimes people get so focused on narrow goals (stop everyone from driving cars, protect the environment) that they can lose sight of the fact that we (as in the human race) rarely do anything in one giant leap. Even that famous leap for mankind on the moon was preceded by unmanned flights, flights that orbited earth, and many many other smaller steps. So yeah, if a cyclist gets stranded it doesn't make much environmental sense to send a big diesel towtruck out to rescue them. But what if the very presence of that diesel towtruck means that 500 more people feel comfortable enough to get out on their bicycles, knowing that if they DO break down by the side of the road they will have assistance? And what if those 500 people are part of a tipping process that then snowballs into their friends and their co-workers and their relatives feeling like the roads are safe enough now to cycle on? Then the presence of that towtruck and its gallon or two of gas might just start to seem kind of trivial.

I said as much in a letter to the editor that was published. I had to hack it down to 250 words to meet the guidelines for print, but here it is in its entirety:

As an avid cyclist and AAA member, I was extremely happy to hear that AAA will now be extending its services to cyclists. I was disappointed though to read the lukewarm response from area cyclists quoted in the article. If we truly want cycling to move out of the arena of the specialist hardcore commuters and road racers, then regular people need to feel comfortable getting out on their bikes. Having to know how to fix their own broken spokes or a frayed brake cable while stranded at the side of the road could be an obstacle to many new would-be cyclists. After all, car drivers don’t need to know how to mend a fan belt with duct tape from their fanny pack, they simply call a tow truck and get their car to a garage. Extending the same kind of service to cyclists could bring many new riders to Oregon’s roads.

I can especially see the availability of AAA as a boon to cycle touring, a form of eco-friendly travel that Oregon businesses and Chambers of Commerce are working to promote in our area. Perhaps some cyclists have never biked past the point that a simple phone call home was enough to get a ride back, but I can tell you that when something goes wrong with your bike a hundred or a thousand miles from home and you’ve got a couple of tired and hungry kids on the backs of your touring tandems and all your gear in a trailer behind you, the AAA truck (big diesel or not) would be a very welcome sight.

Between our road bikes, triathlon bikes, commuting bikes, kids’ bikes and tandems, our family puts on more than a few two-wheeled miles on Oregon’s roads. We’ll be grateful to have AAA’s assistance should we ever need it. Anything that promotes cycling is AAA-OK in my book. So hats off to AAA for jumping in to support Oregon’s cyclists.


Kate said...

I think it's great that AAA is going to be there to help cyclists. Have you seen

Kimbersh said...

May I quote you in an internal AAA publication? I would be willing to email you a copy for your approval.

Great blog, btw... And did you happen to know Julie Walker at Microsoft, back in the day?


Robin said...

Sure, you can quote me. I'd love to see a copy. I looked for a way to contact you but didn't see one on your profile.

Julie Walker sounds familiar, but I don't know for sure. What division was she in?