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Xavier Pelletier. (Pacific Christian School)
Xavier Pelletier. (Pacific Christian School)

Xavier Pelletier’s death raises cycling safety issue Add to ...

Instead of flowers, the family of a teen cyclist killed while taking part in a charity bike tour has asked that gifts be directed to the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

That is the cause Xavier Pelletier was riding for when he was struck and killed on Sunday in Washington State, where he was among a group of cyclists on the second day of a two-day ride from Vancouver to Seattle.

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In the statement, the family also thanked police and fire personnel, volunteers and fellow riders who tried to help the young man after he was hit, saying “their immediate support and tireless efforts give us comfort in the knowledge that nothing more could have been done to save his young life.”

The accident, which reportedly occurred when Mr. Pelletier was passing a group of other riders, cast a shadow over an event meant to symbolize hope and strength and also highlighted the dangers that cyclists can face on roadways, whether in cities or in rural areas.

Charity bike tours are important fundraisers. The B.C. Cancer Agency raised $10.4-million from this year’s ride and $50.2-million in the five years the event has been held.

“It is a critical part of our efforts to support cancer research in the province,” said B.C. Cancer Foundation president Doug Nelson.

Tour planners work with state and provincial authorities to plan and monitor the route, Mr. Nelson said, adding that it was too soon to say whether changes would be made for next year’s route.

“We do everything we can to ensure that riders are safe, or as safe as possible along the route. … We have literally hundreds of people on the route with the express purpose of ensuring rider safety.”

Organizers of other rides, such as the GranFondo events, tackle the safety issue in part by ensuring that cyclists don’t have close encounters with motor vehicles.

“These things are never easy for anybody and it’s hard to know how to address any part of it,” Kevin Thomson, co-founder of GranFondo Canada, said on Monday.

GranFondo rides, including the September RBC GranFondo Whistler, are mass rides held on routes that are partially closed to cars, so that cyclists have their own lane or lanes for the duration of the ride.

For GranFondo Canada, a for-profit entity, that involves costs ranging from paying for 10,000 traffic pylons to hiring road maintanence crews and traffic management personnel. The cost of putting on the event is in the range of $500,000, Mr. Thomson said. Riders pay to take part, with an entrance fee of $250 or a $500 VIP package that includes perks such as an official jersey and a separate staging area at the starting line.

Mr. Thomson would not speculate how much it might cost to implement GranFondo’s model for charity bike rides, emphasizing that he does not know the financial details of charitable groups’ events. Traffic management is just one part of an overall budget for putting on an event, he said, adding that event organizers typically budget for things such as food, entertainment and support vehicles.

The British Columbia Cycling Coalition, an advocacy group, wants provincial and municipal governments to implement a cycling safety strategy that would feature elements such as separated bike lanes and traffic-calmed streets in cities and paved shoulders on rural highways.

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