Although it’s often skipped over in the cars vs bicycles debate, the fact is that most adult cyclists are also motorists – and now, a branch of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is acknowledging that crossover by offering roadside assistance to those of its 1.8 million members who encounter problems while out and about on two wheels instead of four.
The Toronto Star reports that CAA’s South Central Ontario branch has launched an initiative called Bike Assist, similar to a similar programme run by the CAA in British Columbia, that provides on-the-spot help to cyclists within its territory, including transporting the cyclist and their bike back home within distances ranging from 10km to 320km, depending on the grade of membership.
Launched last month, the service, which took a year to put in place with staff being trained in bike maintenance and trucks being equipped with the right tools, has helped out six cyclists to date, according to CAA spokeswoman Faye Lyons, who explains:
“It just expands on our service to our members. Our members are motorists, transit users, cyclists and pedestrians. We want to be Canada’s leading organization for all road users. That includes cyclists.”
Cyclists signed up to CAA membership shouldn’t bin their puncture repair kits just yet though – helping with flats isn’t one of the services on offer at the moment, athough it may be provided in the future.
The CAA branch has also deployed a Bike Squad which visits local charity and community events, whose members, who carry a battery-powered pump, can even change a car tyre so long as the driver has a jack and spare tyre to hand.
According to Toronto city councilor Adrian Heaps, who chairs the city’s Cycling Committee, almost three in four motorists in the city – 72 per cent – use a bike at least once a week, and they are an increasingly affluent demographic, with a survey commissioned by the city in 2009 finding that 30 per cent earn $100,000 or more, up from 13 per cent a decade earlier.
That same survey also showed that cyclists using their bikes for practical uses such as commuting or cycling are also more likely to own cars nowadays than they were ten years ago, with 56 per cent of utilitarian cyclists enjoying unlimited use of a car, compared to 79 per cent of recreational cyclists.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.