AAA starts bicycle service

By Stephen Williams

Gazette Reporter

Bicyclists can be miles from home when a skinny tire goes flat or the gear chain breaks — which can mean a long walk back, if they’re not mechanically inclined.

Starting Aug. 1, if they’re members of the American Automobile Association, they’re now able to summon help — or at least a ride home — with a phone call.

The AAA Northway chapter in Schenectady and AAA Hudson Valley in Albany announced in late July that roadside assistance for bicyclists will be offered at no additional charge to members — a response to a burgeoning interest in cycling for fun and fitness, and requests from members for the service.

“When you’re 5, 10 or 15 miles from home and you don’t know how you’ll get home, you’ll know who to call,” said Glenn Sandberg, a member of the Albany Bicycle Coalition who attended an announcement at Lions Park in Niskayuna. “It’s a psychological think. You have the security of knowing who you can call.”

Going forward, AAA service vehicles will be standardly equipped with bike racks, but don’t expect service personnel to change a bike tire. They’ll pick you up, though, and provide a ride to a bike shop, to your home or back to the trailhead where your vehicle is.

The trucks won’t go out on trails, but they’ll meet bikers at some point service vehicles can reach and then transport them.

“For nearly 100 years, AAA has come to the assistance of motorists stranded by the roadside. Now, AAA’s roadside assistance network is equipped to come to the aid of members choosing a bicycle as a form of transportation,” said Tara Ricard, marketing manager for AAA Hudson Valley.

Assistance is requested by calling 1-800-AAA-HELP, the same as it is for automobile assistance. The association is providing stickers with the number that can be attached to a bicycle.

The 24/7 service will be available to all members of a AAA family.

AAA will also be providing educational material for both drivers and bicyclists about safety sharing the road with other users.

The event was held at Lions Park because it sets at a scenic spot on the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, and is one of the busiest trail locations in the region, used by hundreds of riders each day.

“This is a good thing for all residents of the town and of the county,” Niskayuna town Supervisor Joe Landry said. “You see a lot more people cycling, and whether you’re mechanically inclined or not, you can get out and cycle.”

The two chapters between them have about 295,000 members across 17 upstate counties. Other AAA chapters across the country also offer bicycle roadside assistance, but this will be its local introduction.

“We think it’s a great idea,” said Lorenz M. Worden, president of the Albany Bicycle Coalition. “We’re very interested in people getting out and more people cycling.”

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, or @gazettesteve on Twitter.