In the earlier days of bicycling, if a cyclist got a flat tire calling AAA definitely wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. However, thanks to the growth of bicyclists around the country, more organizations are offering roadside assistance to bicycle riders.
Earlier this month AAA of Southern New England, as well as Colorado, have decided to follow the path of other AAA organizations and extended their roadside assistance services to bicyclists in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
“We did it for several reasons,” said Fran Mayko who is the Public Affairs Manager for AAA Southern New England’s Connecticut division. “We launched it this month because it’s National Bicycle Safety Month, and secondly, this is a service that many of our members have asked for for a long time.”
It’s not surprising that AAA members have asked for bicycle roadside assistance services since the number of cyclists has been on the rise for some time now. One report released by The League of American Bicyclists and the Sierra Club shows that between 2001 to 2009, bike trips between African American, Hispanic, and Asian American populations grew from 16 percent to 23 percent.
Due to the health and economic benefits U.S. adults and younger people are taking up a more active lifestyle by walking or riding a bicycle to their destinations, the authors of the report note. The report adds that there is growing support for a safer, bicycle-friendly environment.
“If we get a call we can come out and help folks who need some kind of assistance,” said Mayko. Minor repairs such as fixing a bike chain, filling a low tire with air or patching up a flat tire, are some examples of what the AAA bicycle roadside assistance services offer.
“If we don’t have the proper tools or [if the repair is] a little bit more complicated, what we can do is transport the bike plus the rider within a 10 mile radius,” said Mayko. She added that AAA already received one call where a father and his son were riding their bicycles, when the father’s bike got damaged due to a pothole.
“We came out, picked up the bike, put it on the truck, put the child in the vehicle with our driver and the father ended up riding the child’s bike home,” said Mayko. “He was pretty happy about it. It’s just a new service that we felt our members wanted and were able to help them out with it.”
Members are covered by the services as well as their teenage kids who are not licensed drivers yet, and can have up to two bicycle roadside assistance calls per year without additional charges. It should also be noted that the AAA of Southern New England and Colorado are by no means trendsetters. Bicycle roadside assistance programs in the state of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been available to bike riders since 2012, added Mayko.
“It’s a great indication of the growing number of Americans who are bicycling for transportation and recreation,” said Director of Communications for the League of American Bicyclists, Carolyn Szczepanski. “…[W]e’re confident that, while these types of programs are still relatively new, they’ll prove to be a great resource for the growing ranks of people on bikes.”