I am happy to report that I quickly heard back from BCAA Bike Assist, after my recent less than complimentary post about their services. In fact, Ken Cousin, BCAA Associate Vice President, Road Assist, went to great lengths to contact me, posting a comment on my blog, emailing me, and finally phoning. We had an interesting talk.
First, hats off to the man for being so good-natured about what he ruefully referred to as my “cutting” remarks. (I can’t really take credit for that – I did have very good material to work with!) Also, I am happy to say that Ken made me feel much better: partly because he offered an apology, but mostly because he told me hopeful things about the whole program.
I am happy because, like Mulder, I want to believe.
This program is just such a good idea that I want it to succeed.
That would be a win-win for cyclists and the BCAA. And who knows, if there was a safety net for ordinary people who don’t know much about fixing bikes (like me), maybe more of them would dare to try commuting by bike.
Ken pointed out that in the course of the last year BCAA has had half a million calls, of which just 200 were from cyclists. So I get that we are not a very significant part of their clientele – yet. However, he said that BCAA Bike Assist has partnered with Norco, and in general is doing its best to learn how to offer this service well. As trailblazers in this field, it’s not easy. He said he planned to contact the VACC for advice, as suggested by many people who responded to this post. He also said that almost all of the BCAA technicians have received training on bike repairs, but that I had the bad fortune to get one of the very few who have not. He agreed with me that it was not the technician’s fault; it was BCAA’s fault for not training him.
Ken stated that the BCAA is committed to sustainability and to alternative transport options. For example, he told me that in the summer of 2009 BCAA offered roadside assistance to drivers in downtown Vancouver via technicians on bicycles! The technicians wanted to get into shape, and the layout of Vancouver is such that it was a viable option. Apparently these technicians carried gas, water and basic tools, and were able to deal with most of the problems that stranded motorists downtown.
I love the idea of people on bikes rescuing stranded motorists! It’s such a refreshing change from the depressing warfare that sometimes rages between motorists and cyclists.
And as I argued in a previous post (No Fun City to Become No Bike City?), there are many services that could be rendered by people on bikes, such as paramedic assistance. To me it’s all part of acknowledging that bicycles could be an integral part of a sustainable society, if we could just move past the ridiculous notion that modern life would grind to a halt without ubiquitous automobiles. As the old song goes, “Got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now.” The human race survived for millions of years without cars, and we could do it again.
In any event, BCAA is of course going to refund the money I paid for the ill-fated tube that lasted all of 5 minutes. He offered to refund my membership fees as well. However, after all he had told me, I thought it would be really interesting to retain my membership and call them out again one day.
The best thing Ken said: he can’t promise that my next experience of BCAA will be perfect, but he can promise that it’ll be better.
We shall see – and I sincerely hope that one day I will get to write a post about a wonderful experience with BCAA Bike Assist.
I was surprised when I complained about Canadian Tire on my blog, at how quickly they responded.
Was a pleasant conversation back and forth, although the outcome wasn’t all that appealing (from my perspective).
Just an idea but perhaps you should contact the city and a store such as Canadian Tire (or a bike shop) to offer free bike repair kits at different locations throughout Vancouver.
Obviously St. Catharines is considerably smaller in size and population, however we have them in quite a few different locations.
I do give BCAA some credit for following up on this in a timely manner. Appears BCAA and Ontario’s CAA have a different attitude towards bikes.
Last year (or perhaps 2 years ago now), a rep. from Toronto’s CAA was only one of two people who showed up against a bike lane on University Ave.
Average Joe Cyclist says
Good idea, Ryan. Horrible story about your Toronto CAA rep though! Once again, counting my blessings I live in Vancouver (although not meaning to cast aspersions on St. Catharines, which I have not yet had the opportunity to visit 🙂
What a great response and a great post. I too want this program to succeed. Its wonderful to see BCAA step up to the plate and to hear that they are putting together a plan on how they will do better; that’s a win-win for all of us.
I was also particularly impressed to hear how BCAA had experimented with repair technicians on bicycle’s in the downtown area – I would love, and hope to see, that re-introduced again. It must be far less expensive for BCAA to keep a fleet of bikes around, than a fleet of cars.
Average Joe Cyclist says
We’re on the same page there, Paddyanne. I think I first heard about this program on your blog, and I was pretty excited about it too. There’s still plenty of hope 🙂
Although the idea of having BCAA technician on bike helping drivers is awesome, I still think that is so simple to have your own back up plan that involve a simple repair kit (really inexpensive a MEC), a good knowledge on how to use it (there is many clinics around town, video online and VACC could guide in getting your skills) and a bus tickets (2.50$ for a bus that has a bike rack and can easily give you a lift in no time; rather than waiting on the side of the road for BCAA… how many time have I had to wait for them hours in the winter time in Toronto (with no heat as the battery was dead) for a battery boosting when my parents gave me their old car…)
You should note that most flats occur in the rain, because the dust from the road can more easily stick to your tire. Be prepare.
Oh, BTW in your previous posting on your misadventure with BCAA, I think you meant that your inner tube has Presta valve and not Schrader as all car tires has Schrader and that you don’t need an adapter for a car tire to fit a Schrader put the opposite.
Here a video to help you get started in your new self cycle repair and maintenance :
Good point on most flats happening in the rain. I know it certainly seems that way, and I have noticed big chunks of “stuff” sticking to my tires in the rain, but hadn’t put 2 & 2 together before reading this.
I keep a spare tube, tire repair kit, multi-tool, tweezers and latex gloves in a bag under my seat at all times. All but the tire are in a ziploc so they are easier to work with and to transfer from one bike to the other.
After 20 years, I let my BCAA membership lapse this year. It was a tough decision, given that I was paying $20 less than new members, but I really don’t think I’ve gotten anywhere near my money’s worth with the membership. (I guess I’ll find out if it was the right decision when it comes time to renew my home insurance.)
I forgot: Thank you Joe for all the great posting and I’m glad that you took the time to give us the full story of your experience with BCAA.
I enjoy your blog.