After its “historic” passage through the Prince Edward Island legislature in May, Ellen’s Law, named in memory of Ellen Watters, officially came into force for the Atlantic province this weekend.
Watters, one of Canada’s most talented competitive riders, was struck by a vehicle and killed in December 2016, during a training ride in Sussex, New Brunswick. She was 28 years old.
The untimely death of the Canadian star athlete prompted widespread calls among cyclists and cycling advocates for changes to provincial legislation, the goal being to make streets safer for riders. Earlier this year, the law was passed in New Brunswick on May 5 and came into effect on June 1. Shortly after its passage in New Brunswick, advocates in Prince Edward Island — particularly Cycling PEI — pressed for similar overhauls to the rules of the road in that province, changes that would mandate a metre’s clearance for cyclists when being passed by vehicles.
A bill establishing that law passed the Prince Edward Island legislature on May 15.
Drivers who violate the law will be slapped with three demerit points and a $200 fine. Another law, meanwhile, forbids the careless opening of car doors into the paths of cyclists, an offense that is also punitively backed up with a $200 fine.
“If you are on a piece of the highway that may not have a strip of highway for the bicycle to drive on, the motor vehicle now has permission to cross the centre line to go around,” said PEI transportation minister Paula Biggar, speaking with the CBC in May, “because right now the way the legislation had read is that you must not cross the centre lines.”
Addressing the dooring aspect of the new law, Biggar said, “There have been incidents where cyclists have been injured because of a driver’s side door opening and having an impact and that catapults them over the top of the door obviously and can result, and has in the past resulted in very serious injury to the cyclist.”