This time last year, frustrated Squamish residents were emailing, calling and voicing their concerns about the controversial move to bar east-west crossings of Highway 99 during the morning of the RBC GranFondo Whistler race.
The day came and went without much dissension and Kevin Thomson, the co-founder of the race, said that reaction to the traffic issue this year has been much more positive, due not only to the changes made by the group but also increased awareness.
“What people seemed to be telling us is that last year they didn’t know about it,” he said. “And when you don’t know about something like that, it sucks, and can really impact your day. As long as people know about it, and this year I think they do, it’s a lot easier to plan around.”
There will be no access to and from both Mamquam Road and Garibaldi Way between 8:45 to 10:45 a.m., as well as limited access to both Clarke Drive and Valley Drive in Valleycliffe. But Thomson said the big change is access to Loggers Lane and Brennan Park through Centennial Way, which will not be used by riders this year.
“Last year with Loggers Lane we thought that it might make for a nice ride for our bikers but it created more of a challenge with the Centennial Way underpass,” he said. “By having riders on the highway the entire time, we completely unencumber the Centennial Way underpass so people have easier access to the Brennan Park community centre. It’s really a no brainer and a step in the right direction.”
Thomson acknowledged that those living in Garibaldi Highlands and Valleycliffe may be inconvenienced by the race but noted that he thinks it’s worthwhile for the community to host the event.
“I don’t know what’s fair and what’s not fair but all I know is there are lots of positive reasons for an event like this to exist and we focus on the positive elements and try to minimize the negative ones,” he said.
He pointed to the Squamish residents have created Fondo Fan Zone and the economic benefits that the town receives from the race as positives to counter the negatives.
“Seeing the community come together with the Fondo Fan Zone rocks,” he said. “It’s pretty magical, and when we measured the economic benefits for Squamish I think it was about $650,000 directly to Squamish from the race. To get that money all that needs to happen is a two-hour inconvenience to some people. It may not be fair to those people but nobody is doing it to them directly. It’s happening on the roadway and they just happen to be affected.
“Ideally this wouldn’t impact anyone negative, but seriously, you can always plan around anything and that seems like what Squamish has done.”
Thomson said Squamish is a key part of what makes the GranFondo a great event.
“The organizers are tremendously grateful to the community of Squamish and the Sea to Sky Corridor,” he said. “Yes, there have been some people who complain but overall it’s an overwhelming feeling of support from Squamish. It’s a great way to show off the corridor and inevitably people want to come back and see more.”
For complete traffic details for the event, visit www.rbcgranfondwhistler.com.