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Ellen’s Law moving ahead in New Brunswick

Government says one metre passing law will be introduced later this month

Watters at the head of the race at the 2016 Giro di Burnaby. Photo courtesy of Oran Kelly
Photo courtesy of Oran Kelly

The New Brunswick government has promised that sometime this month it will be moving ahead to introduce new cycling safety legislation after the death of Ellen Watters. Advocates have been urging the government to introduce a one-metre law that is being called Ellen’s Law after Watters was hit by a passing vehicle near her hometown of Sussex, N.B. on Dec. 23 and died in hospital a few days later on Dec. 27. The law would require vehicles to give cyclists one-metre of space while passing.

Rick Doucet is a member of the legislative assembly and has been a supporter of Ellen’s Law. As a cyclist, he has faced the dangers on the road himself.

“I was hit, I was hit a number of years ago in Fredericton and it happened very quickly and I was well on a shoulder of the road,” Doucet told CTV News.

The New Brunswick cycling community voiced their demands for legislation in demonstrations across the province that drew hundreds turned out for rallies early in the New Year after Watters death. She was set to make her professional debut with UCI Colavita-Bianchi in 2017.

“The introduction should be within a couple of weeks and within the coming months, it will be law,” Doucet said assuring advocates that the law is coming.

The full text of the legislation has yet to be released but the government told CTV that it would require motorists to give cyclists one meter of space when overtaking cyclists. Similar legislation already exists in the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia. In Ontario motorists who do not comply can be fined $110 and get two demerit points added to their license. In Nova Scotia, motorists can be fined $800.

“It’s important that motorists know that before they pass that cyclist, they have to give them a metre of space,” said Wayne Arrowsmith, of the Saint John Cycling Club to CTV. “Now, if a vehicle is coming the other way they may try to squeeze through there, but in the future they may hesitate and wait five or ten seconds before they pass that cyclist, that’s important.”

Another factor advocates stress is the need for proper infrastructure to be built. “If city planners could allow some space when they’re building a new road for the cyclists and for pedestrians to walk on,” Becky Consolvo a bike shop owner said.

The legislation is expected to come at the same time as the government introduces a public education program to encourage and educate motorists on the importance of sharing the road with cyclists. “I think the important thing is they’re moving on it now and recognizing the importance of putting it into legislation and acting on it,” says Arrowsmith.