SORRY, NOT TRUE, WAS AN APRIL 1ST PRANK... (but the stuff about the cycling roots of the AA is true). Other stories today which might appear to be spoofs are, in fact, true. So, Audi really is to offer a trio of wooden bikes for sale. And, yes, the Secretary of State for Transport really did try to arrange an Autumn meeting with Cycling England, the quango he culled.
A new initiative to help fill some of the 2.2 million potholes in the UK has been launched by the AA. The organisation has partnered with the CTC and other road user organisations to roll out AA Pothole Assist.
The AA already runs AA Fuel Assist and AA Battery Assist. As part of AA Pothole Assist, AA patrols will be tasked with filling in flagged potholes when travelling between breakdown jobs.
The flagging is done via smartphones. AA has a raft of iPhone and Android apps which can log the location of potholes and the CTC's Fill That Hole iPhone app will also be able to pinpoint potholes for upload to the AA Pothole Assist database.
The AA is said to be entering the road maintenance market as a "direct response to concerns raised by members." Many AA members are also cyclists.
AA president Edmund King said:
"An AA Populus poll of 20,000 members showed that the majority believe that road conditions have deteriorated over the last decade. AA Insurance has experienced a four-fold increase in claims due to pothole damage in the last two years. Cyclists as well as drivers suffer from the often shoddy conditions of Britain's roads.
"We won't be able to patch all of the potholes out there but with the help of CTC and other organisations we'll be able to pinpoint the worst ones and get to work on making them safe for all road users."
As part of AA Pothole Assist, AA patrols are trialling a quick-seal pothole filler to fill the potholes without adversely delaying road users. The trial filler is applied as a bright yellow solution, and after a heat treatment, dries to become darker yellow, one of the AA corporate colours.
AA has invested £250,000 in the scheme, which patrols starting to use the yellow solution and mobile dryers today. Larger potholes will be also marked with black stencils, with a small AA logo and the text "AA for the Road Ahead.”
King said: “With a patrol force of 2,500 across the UK covering some 20 million miles per year, we are in an ideal position to spot-fix the worst potholes. The AA quick-seal solution means that potholes can be filled in quickly and safely between breakdown jobs. We urge cyclists and drivers to log the worst potholes via our iPhone and Android apps. Some of these cost up to £1.75, but others are free. The CTC app is free."
The assistance of CTC has been welcomed by the motoring organisation but this is not the first time the AA has been helped by cyclists. In fact, the motoring organisation, founded in 1905, was started as a speed-trap spotting organisation, with cyclists doing the spotting.
In March 1905 a fellow called Walter Gibbons wrote to Autocar magazine suggesting a Motorists’ Protection Association for the Prevention of Police Traps. Two other motorists replied saying arrangements had been made to patrol the Brighton road to warn motorists of said police traps. The first patrols went out in April 1905. The first AA patrol vehicles were therefore bicycles.
Within months, this informal arrangement of a “special staff of cyclists” was formalised into an organisation and it appointed a full-time secretary.
The AA relied on cycle scouts for some years. By 1912 there were 950 AA cycle scouts across the UK.