Oregon, Washington bicyclists get AAA assistance: For a price

Why AAA decided to pick 2009 to debut bicycle roadside assistance in Oregon and parts of Idaho -- the home turf of green AAA alternative Better World Club -- is tough to divine. Was the Oregon/Idaho chapter seeing a reduction in memberships due to competition? Did the fast-growing population of bicyclists commuting to work, but with cars at home, demand it? Or was it simply an attempt at good PR after the organization lobbied against an Oregon bicycle bill?

In any case, I can't suggest this new service; the prices just don't justify the considerable financial backing you're giving an anti-environment lobby.

Though the organization recently shed its full name embracing the Automobile and now goes officially by its acronym, AAA has a history of being decidedly anti-bike. In fact, its very roots are in the early 1900s, when road systems sprang up for the ubiquitous bicycles and the general population decried automobiles as noisy and dangerous. AAA lobbied for automobile respect; and over the next century campaigned for increased highway funding, lower gasoline taxes, and reduced vehicle regulation. Want more?

The association lobbies against public transportation funding. AAA has long indicated that its membership of 25% of the U.S. population desires those things (though critics point out the association doesn't describe its lobbying activities to prospective members, who instead sign up for the emergency roadside assistance and the nice maps).

Seven years ago, my then-landlord told me about his latest investment: as an angel in the new Better World Club. This was the first I'd heard of AAA's anti-environment lobbying activities, and he explained that Better World Club had sprung up not just to offer roadside assistance without the questionable political funding, but to actively lobby for more environmentally-friendly transportation policy. What's more, the new association was offering the nation's first bicycle roadside assistance program. Today, the company offers nationwide bicycle roadside assistance, either as a standalone for we car-free types, or as part of an automobile roadside assistance package. (It's $39.95 for bicycle-only package, if you're wondering.)

If you're a bicyclist in Oregon or Idaho, I'd suggest you go with the less expensive, greener choice -- or, as a commenter on the BikePortland.org blog suggests, forget roadside assistance plans altogether and spend your money on insurance.

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