Ellen’s Law was introduced to the legislative assembly by the New Brunswick government on Thursday, Feb. 17 marking a major step to making a one-metre passing law in the province law. The bill titled “An Act Respecting Ellen’s Law” is an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act and dictates drivers of motor vehicles give at least one-metre of space when they pass a cyclist.
Ellen Watters passed away on Dec. 28 after being hit by a passing car near her home in Sussex, N.B. on Dec. 23. She was set to ride with Colavita-Bianchi in 2017 after graduating from the Cyclery-Opus program based in Ottawa.
The legislation was introduced at what many remarked was impressive speed including Wayne Arrowsmith, one of the advocates who lobbied the government to pass Ellen’s Law, who said to CBC he was happy to see it introduced “with lightning speed.” An uncomfortable reality for Arrowsmith and others is that it took a tragic death to get the legislative finally moving forward after first being discussed in late 2015.
Public safety minister Denis Landry who was first elected to the provincial government in 1995, told the CBC, “I’ve never experienced having a bill go through this quick.”
Liberal MLA Chris Collins who is the chair of Legislative Administration Committee said in a statement on his Facebook page that, “It was a bittersweet day in my office as I welcomed the parents of the late Ellen Watters to the legislative assembly of New Brunswick. Today, government is introducing a bill to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to help protect cyclists on the province’s roads.”
The government is also taking other measures to protect cyclists promising to study other recommendations cycling advocates have made including wider passing clearance when speeds are higher to 50 km. Legal recognition of bike lanes is also cycling groups want to prevent parked cars from blocking cyclists who are then forced into traffic.
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The parents of Olympic bronze medalist, Catharine Pendrel were on hand for the introduction of the law. “There’s a little lack of respect, I think, for us,” Pendrel’s mother Johanna Bertin said noting that many highways don’t have shoulders for cyclists to ride on. Pendrel’s father Bruce added “The education part of this bill is huge. I think drivers will actually welcome the clarity that this law brings.”