Future of Slow Food Cycle uncertain for 2014 

Event organizers to consult residents on potential Meadows Road closure to Vehicles

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A tragic accident during Pemberton's Slow Food Cycle, which left the driver of a pick-up truck dead and other passengers injured, has event organizers considering cancelling for 2014.

"The RCMP was pretty clear that they would like to see the road closed from a standpoint of public safety," said Slow Food Cycle organizer Niki Vankerk following a meeting of stakeholders last week.

The meeting was called to look at the future of the event and road safety after the accident Aug.18.

While no cyclists were injured or killed in the single-vehicle crash on the Pemberton Meadows Road, most see it as a wake-up call as event participation passed the 4,000-cyclist mark this year. The stretch of road where the crash happened was crowded with Slow Food riders at the time of the incident.

The event organizers met representatives from the RCMP, the Village of Pemberton, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the B.C. ministry of transportation.

"The ministry of transportation was pretty clear that if we were going to look at closing the road we would need to have buy-in from the residents, particularly Pemberton Meadows residents and Bralorne, Goldbridge people," said Vankerk.

Closing the road so only bikes can use the road on Slow Food day is a big move that Vankerk said would require planning help from more than just the current small group of event planners.

She added that resident feedback on the idea of removing vehicles from the road on event day would be key to the decision-making process.

The cost of implementing such a big change would also play a role in whether the organizers take the event in that direction. Vankerk said one option would be to hold the next Slow Food Cycle in 2015 to give organizers enough time to work out logistical challenges.

"Everyone at the table was really excited about the ride," said Vankerk. "They thought it was great for the community. Everyone was really supportive it was just a matter of making sure that we can do it safely."

On the issue of safety Vankerk said the RCMP wants all cyclists to follow the law and wear a helmet. The police also prefer cyclists ride single file. But, said Vankerk, that is difficult as the ride is very social so groups of cyclists tend to ride two or more abreast. There was discussion at the meeting of putting up more signage and having an RCMP presence at the registration area, so officers could inform participants of cycling laws.

Vankerk said she hopes the plans for the next Slow Food Cycle are decided upon by Christmas.

While Slow Food organizers consider the future. two separate gatherings were organized to benefit the people involved in the deadly crash.

More than 100 people attended the first event on Aug. 22 to celebrate the life of Matt Ouellette, who died in the crash. The gathering started in the Alpha Lake Dog Park, a place Ouellette visited with his dog named Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, with a short remembrance ceremony and then moved to the Southside Diner. Event organizer Steven Orange said the place was packed.

"It was really good, it was a good celebration of life," said Orange.

According to Orange, the person who suffered the least significant injuries in the Pemberton crash has a sore back and he's dealing with emotional issues in the aftermath. Orange said the man in his early 20s is an employee of his so he knows his situation well.

According to the RCMP, another male in his early 20s is still recovering in hospital from his serious injuries while a 29-year old woman was released from hospital.

Rhiannon Flann, 21, has indicated through her Facebook page that she is improving, though remains in hospital at this time.

The second event was a fundraiser at Creekbread on Aug. 27. According to co-organizer Katrina Anderson more than $3,000 was raised. She said the money would be used to help support those involved in the crash.

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