The flow of messages never lets up. Every day an enormous torrent of data washes over us, with around 100 billion messages sent every day via WhatsApp alone. But most of these messages hardly qualify as being news since the journalistic definition of “news” is quite different to that which is usually sent over WhatsApp …

ADAC roadside assistance – a gem of a news story

According to Dietz Schwiesau and Josef Ohler, “News is a direct message, focused on the essential and as objective as possible, about a new event that is important and/or interesting for the public.” Like many of us, I receive all kinds of messages from neighbors, relatives, friends and acquaintances via WhatsApp – memes, cartoons and photo collages, the occasional good joke, not to mention beautiful holiday pictures from half of Europe. Hardly any of them meet the journalists’ definition of news.

As it happens, I have a particular fondness for unusual, weird and humorous news, and the three different newspapers I read each day are a goldmine for these kinds of stories. While the Internet is faster and more fleeting, paper-based news is more considered and usually more profound. I love to rummage around for “Aha!” moments, the kind of truffles that are hard to find in the flood of information available on the Internet.

After several disappointingly dull weeks, I recently came across an absolute gem in the Berliner Tagesspiegel newspaper. It was only a short piece but, as far as I was concerned, a sensational one. I could not take my eyes off the perplexing headline. Slowly and quietly, I read the letters in front of me one by one: A – D – A – C. And then, like some kind of robot, the full name: Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club – the General German Automobile Association. Still aghast, I read the entire headline: “ADAC roadside assistance: electric bike project heads into new season”. Below the headline there was a photograph showing a breakdown mechanic in a bright yellow helmet and cycling gear. A trailer in the same bright yellow was attached to the back of his electric bike. Printed on its side in bold black lettering were four unmistakable letters: ADAC.

E-bike “angels” can fix 80 percent of all breakdowns

I was amazed. This seemed to me like some kind of revolution. In their hour of need, more than 22 million drivers can now also be rescued by cyclists – not just in Berlin but also in Cologne and other major German cities. Unfortunately, the fact that this electric bike roadside assistance project has already been running from the end of May to the end of September each year for several years seems to have escaped almost everyone’s notice so far.

%

of all breakdowns can be fixed by E-bike “angels”

These Yellow Angels, as ADAC calls them, gracefully wind their way through the gridlock that forms part of everyday life in Germany’s biggest cities. By using bus lanes and driving against traffic down one-way streets, they can often reach a stricken car more quickly on congested roads and can access even the narrowest alleyways and the most inaccessible underground and multi-story car parks. The mechanics can carry up to 70 kilograms of tools in their trailers, including a diagnostic device, battery tester, starter pack, adjustable wrench and compressor. Although the Yellow Angels do not carry petrol cans, jacks or new batteries as these are too heavy and cumbersome for their trailers, their equipment apparently enables them to fix 80 percent of all breakdowns. Giving a car a jump-start or opening its door is child’s play for them. The athletic 40-something mechanic shown in the photograph also gives the impression that his job does not pose him much of a physical challenge, either. His bike’s electric motor helps to get him from A to B and can be switched to turbo at traffic lights, making it considerably easier to get going and drive around with a fully-loaded trailer in tow.

Fresh boost for cooperation between drivers and cyclists

Roadside assistance by electric bike is a fantastic idea for city centers congested with cars. What’s more, this ADAC project also showcases the benefits of getting around on two wheels. As both a driver and a cyclist, I wish that road users could work with each other rather than against each other, and ADAC’s bicycle assistance project provides an important boost in this regard. Better yet, the project has since been expanded even further, with the Yellow Angels now able to help fellow cyclists provided they are ADAC members. This news floored me. As a cyclist and ADAC member, it was definitely an “Aha!” moment.

Before continuing to flick through my morning paper, I took one last, close look at the breakdown mechanic and his equipment. There was something strange about it, something that you wouldn’t otherwise expect from ADAC. It took a while until I realized what was bothering me: electric bikes have no roof. And because they have no roof, they have no flashing orange light on top, with only a pennant on the back of the trailer instead. Just as I had overlooked the entire project until now, I had also missed the pennant in the photograph. I hope this is not a bad omen when it comes to making sure that the mechanics are visible and safe in busy traffic, although at least cyclists are already used to being overlooked. Welcome, Yellow Angels, to the tough world of cycle mobility. It might get just a little easier now that you are here.

Author

Wolfram Stahl

Wolfram Stahl

Press spokesperson

Press spokesperson in Berlin. Former radio editor, reporter and presenter at WDR in Cologne, then correspondent in Berlin. Someone who knows little about much and much about little. That’s why he’s a great jack-of all-trades, but pretty useless as a specialist. Special skill: to quickly become familiar with a topic. Motto: Just do it! And make it simple! For nothing is too complicated to be made comprehensible. And since impatience is one of his greatest strengths, doing things is easier than waiting anyway.

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