Sylvain Karpinski said his close friend Daphné Toumbanakis was a real sweetheart.
“She spread love everywhere she went,” he said. “She was the kind of person that was really happy, and very kind to everybody.
“I think she would have changed the world a bunch if she was here for a longer time.”
Toumbanakis, 24, was struck and killed by a pickup in Maple Ridge on the evening of Monday, July 20. She was at the beginning of a cross-Canada cycling trip.
Karpinski said she was a cycling enthusiast who had travelled across the world on bikes for the last seven years.
“She rode through Turkey, Greece, ex-Yugoslavia, Poland and a bunch of countries in Europe,” he said.
“She also travelled through Central America and Columbia,” he added. “After almost 10,000 kilometres of road trips on a bicycle, she was very experienced.”
According to her friend, the last thing Toumbanakis was afraid of was cars.
“When she rode through Panama for instance, there was heavy traffic, and no shoulder,” he said. “On Monday morning she called me and was asking me how to handle the grizzly bears in the Rockies, so that was her concern on the day she died.”
The young woman had only recently come back to Canada after spending a year studying in Bogota.
Karpinski said helping those less fortunate than her was a passion of Toumbanakis’.
“She was studying international relations,” he said. “She wanted to work with refugees and immigrants, and was really engaged in social discrimination and things like that.
“She was really active, in terms of social work.”
In addition to cycling, her hobbies included tango dancing, which she had practised everywhere she went, amassing a tight-knit community around her.
“When you dance the tango, you make a lot of friends,” Karpinski said.
Despite travelling to many countries, Toumbanakis had not seen quite enough of the one she was born in, Karpsinki pointed out. So, on her break from school, she decided to ride from Vancouver to her home town of Montreal, where her parents and sister live.
“When you travel by bike, you can enjoy each metre of the road,” he said. “You can cross everything; forest, mountains, small towns, big cities. You can really get to know a country.”
The young cyclist’s sister, Melina, 28, will fly with Karpinski from Montreal to B.C. early next week.
They plan on creating a memorial to Toumbanakis at the spot where she died. The pair will pick up the bike she was riding when struck, and fix it up as best they can, then spray paint it white.
The process is called ghost biking and has been used for many years to honour fallen cyclists.
They also plan on attaching a stainless steel plate with some information about Toumbanakis, and have started a Go-Fund me, so they can buy a large wreath of flowers at the site.
Ridge Meadows RCMP are still looking for anyone who might have seen the crash on Lougheed Highway between 240th Street and Spilsbury Street at around 5:30 to 5:45 p.m.
Witnesses are asked to contact Cst. Ethier of Ridge Meadows RSTT at 604-463-6251 and refer to file number 2020-15594.