Thursday, May 6, 2010

AAA Mid-Atlantic bashes Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes

Most cyclists that I know drive cars. Maybe not as much as other people, but we use cars to go on longer trips, sometimes for grocery shopping, and for many of the other trips that we don't take by bike. Many of us also purchase travel services, either from our primary auto insurance company or from groups like AAA or Better World Club.

If you are a member of AAA Mid-Atlantic you might want to think twice about your membership. NEW BIKE LANES COULD MAKE A BAD THING WORSE IN DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON, SAYS AAA: Protected Bike Lane Project Would Remove Six Miles Of Traffic Lane; New Bike Lanes Won't Entice District Motorists Out Of Cars, AAA Poll Shows. That's the (long) title of a recent AAA press release that is very critical of the Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes.

AAA claims that "It is unlikely the addition of new bike lanes in Washington's Central Business District will entice most motorists out of their cars or attract more residents to bicycling to work. That's according to the findings of AAA Mid-Atlantic's latest survey of District motorists." But then they state that "20 percent of surveyed AAA members in the District said the changes would compel them to become regular bicycle commuters." Just think what a 20% bicycle mode share could mean for the District.

"Motorists are concerned that congestion will become even more pronounced because reductions in lane width generally trigger reductions in traffic flow, travel times and capacity. That’s the biggest issue." In fact, according to FHWA, reducing lane width in "reduced-speed urban environments" is commonly used to create bike lanes and narrow crossing distance for pedestrians and has little impact on traffic.

AAA Mid-Atlantic "is encouraging commuters and District motorists to voice their concerns about the proposal." We encourage you to voice your concerns to AAA Mid-Atlantic to let them know you don't appreciate your membership money going toward bicycle-bashing press releases. You can also let the Transportation Planning Board know that you support DDOT's bike lane proposal in the 2010 Draft update to the CLRP.

By the way, Better World Club has a Bike road assistance program that includes Bike Discounts, information on traveling with your bike and more. We're members and in our opinion, they are a much better option for travel services.

See related stories at The Wash Cycle: Penn Ave. Bike Lanes: AAA is crushing us
League of American Bicyclists: Bike Lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue (updated)

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Done. This is what I said


I have been an AAA member for a long time. Maybe its just time to give it up. I am AAA member for your auto and travel services. Well actually I dont need your travel services any more - and the auto service - there are others.

What upsets me - your bike bashing. I dont pay you money to bash alternative transportation. I pay you membership fees for your auto and travel services. I have always hated your pro car, pro gasoline guzzling lobbying. I dont even know how you get away with it.

AAA members are not car nuts. The idea that you take our money and run with a car nut agenda - always bothers me.

Stop bashing alternative transportation. Stop bashing bikes.

Thanks for taking action. It shouldn't take too many letters like yours for AAA to re-think their strategy and realize that many if not most of their members are also cyclists.
Hey there, I work for AAA Mid-Atlantic and, when I heard about this, I emailed our Public and Gov’t affairs group about this. I ride my bike, my boyfriend’s only mode of transport is a bike and all my friends ride, too!

In truth, AAA Mid-Atlantic is not against the bike lanes themselves but are concerned that there was no procedure in place for public review, survey, etc. If they were putting another car lane in, we would be equally as alarmed. People are reacting to the anti-bike lane issue as anti-bike when, really, we are just anti-lack-of-formal-review-process.

I wrote a blog post in the community to clarify, but wanted to make the rounds on other blogs and clear up some misconceptions. You can read the official AAA post here: (you can also see me with my sweet Bianchi in the post) ;)
my email response from AAA:

Let us correct a misperception; AAA Mid-Atlantic does not oppose bike lanes in the nation’s capital. We are fully supportive of the fact that the District of Columbia has 44.7 miles of bike lanes and 56 miles of bike trails.

AAA also supports additional bike lanes including lanes on major city thoroughfares where practical. However, a meaningful and thoughtful planning process should follow when doing so. That process should include: 1) a published mobility analysis and full traffic impact study, 2) an environmental impact study, and 3) completion of a public comment period.

Before this process was completed - two complete traffic lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue - easily, the most heavily traveled East-West route in the city - fully one-fourth of the roadway capacity was eliminated.

AAA Mid-Atlantic believes that “Share The Road” situations can safely and effectively be created between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as is already evident on many streets in the city.

DDOT must, however, have the best interests in mind of all citizens: including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians when implementing any change that has such significant impact on mobility in the city.

We appreciate your membership and hope you support our continued efforts to keep roads safe for all.

Kristin Nevels
AAA Mid-Atlantic
Public & Government Affairs Intern

Thanks for the comments. You say that "there was no procedure in place for public review, survey, etc. If they were putting another car lane in, we would be equally as alarmed. People are reacting to the anti-bike lane issue as anti-bike when, really, we are just anti-lack-of-formal-review-process."

The bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave are included in the DC Bicycle Master Plan (see the Proposed Bicycle Facilities Map). There was extensive review of the plans. Starting in 2002 there were public meetings, online feedback forms, surveys, etc. That would be the time to voice concerns and I'm sure some people spoke out against the plans.

This is no different than any other road project that has been in the comprehensive plan for years. Funds become available and projects get built that are on the plan. That's why we tell our members they need to be involved early in the planning process. Speaking out now against the project is a little too late in the process.

AAA Mid-Atlantic's position was pretty clear in the press release. It didn't ask it's members to voice their support for the bike lanes. It laid out an argument against them and asked members to accept that argument and to contact the Transportation Planning Board to speak out against the lanes.

What would have been nice would be for AAA Mid-Atlantic to have congratulated DDOT for beginning the process of reducing congestion in the District by possibly taking 20% of DC car commuters off the road by allowing them to go by bike. This should be a win-win situation and the sooner AAA Mid-Atlantic recognizes that the better.
Hi Bruce:

I totally agree that the press release/initial info coming from AAA focused more on congestion and less on how they felt this was not in the best public interest. Definitely our fault on that.

I'm not sure if AAA will go on to congratulate DDOT (I'm not in PR or Gov't Affairs so I couldn't tell you), but I think as long as traffic congestion is lessened that is a win for everyone. :)
I sent a note and received the same 'CANNED" response.

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