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City to stage The Amazing Disaster Rally

New Westminster Police Insp. Phil Eastwood is an organizer for The Amazing Disaster Rally which will have cyclists making their way around the city on bicycle in an emergency preparedness mock exercise. Participants will be encouraged to use bike routes and the top three point-getters will receive an emergency-preparedness backpack worth about $100. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
New Westminster Police Insp. Phil Eastwood is an organizer for The Amazing Disaster Rally which will have cyclists making their way around the city on bicycle in an emergency preparedness mock exercise. Participants will be encouraged to use bike routes and the top three point-getters will receive an emergency-preparedness backpack worth about $100.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

In the event of a disaster be prepared … to hop on a bicycle.

New Westminster police Insp. Phil Eastwood was looking for a way to promote national emergency preparedness week May 4 to 10 when he heard about the City of Victoria's Tour de Disaster last July. It involved using bikes to get things done in the event of an emergency such as an earthquake.

"I just thought it would be an excellent idea. [New Westminster] is surrounded by bridges and in the event of a large scale earthquake when bridges and roads are compromised it makes perfect sense to get around a city on bicycles," said Eastwood. "I can't wait. It was one of those ideas that I saw some video on YouTube and I thought it was a great idea."

So New West will hold The Amazing Disaster Rally on May 10. Organizers are looking for up to 50 participants and they'll start and finish a 25-kilometre course at Queen's Park Stadium.

In between, they'll have to work their way through a series of tasks and nine checkpoints. Some of the things they'll have to do include moving supplies and crafting materials. How they get from one checkpoint to another is up to them, although they're being encouraged to use the city's bike routes. No streets will be closed for the event so they'll have to follow the rules of the road.

While Victoria had the cyclists carry a set amount of weight on their bikes, New West has opted to give participants some supplies which the bicycles will have to be equipped to carry.

"We actually felt we wanted to have more of a fun exercise, and less physical obstacles to get around with your bike. So we're building ours more around a knowledge-based test with things to do with emergency response," said Eastwood.

The NWPD already has a large bicycle presence in the city, and has about 20 of them hanging from a rack in their storage facility that are used by officers, reserve constables and volunteers.

"From a first responders' point of view we have significant capacity to get around the city on bikes. So this exercise or rally will just highlight this," said Eastwood.

Prior to the event, Caps Bicycles will look over participants' bikes to make sure they're sound enough. All participants will receive a first-aid kit.

The Amazing Disaster Rally is open to anyone 19 or older with a bike that's capable of carrying some cargo with a backpack, panniers, carriers or cargo bikes. For more information and the pre-registration form go to www.newwestcity.ca.

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