Ellen's Law takes effect in New Brunswick

Six months after Ellen Watters of Sussex died from injuries sustained in a cycling collision, the New Brunswick legislation that bears her name is in effect to protect other cyclists from a similar fate.

Drivers face a fine of $172.50 and three demerit points if they crowd a cyclist

Ellen Watters, widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling, passed away after being involved in a collision with a vehicle on a Dec. 23 training run. She was 28. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

Six months after Ellen Watters of Sussex died from injuries sustained in a cycling collision, the New Brunswick legislation that bears her name is in effect to protect other cyclists from a similar fate.

Watters, 28, was widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling. She was struck by a car while on a training ride in Sussex on Dec. 23 and died four days later. No one was charged in her death.

Krysta Cowling, executive director of La Bikery, says the legislation, which took effect on Thursday, is a step in the right direction.

I think the big step moving forward though that many cyclists are still concerned about is how the law will be implemented.- Krysta Cowling, La Bikery

"This law is a big deal in terms of safety," Cowling told CBC's Information Morning Moncton.

"It means that cyclists are now afforded the space that they need on the road to feel safe and that's really important," she said.

"I think the big step moving forward though that many cyclists are still concerned about is how the law will be implemented."

And with warmer weather on the way, more cyclists will be hitting the road and drivers will have to adapt to the change in legislation.

Share the road

Karl Stoetereau, a driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada in Moncton, said drivers need to be empathetic to cyclists.

"Change your driving habits and change your attitude about cyclists, they are going to be there, it's part of driving now," he said.

"You can't just decide you're going to deal with cars."

He said sharing the road means being aware and informed.

"I see a lot of mistakes on the part of drivers that are trying their best but don't know … best practices when it comes to cyclists."

Stoetereau teaches new drivers to scan the road every two seconds, to look three cars ahead to anticipate what is coming and to check the rearview mirror every five to eight seconds. But his biggest piece of advice is to simply pay attention.

"Distracted driving is pretty broad, it's not just cellphones."

Use hand signals

Krysta Cowling, executive director of La Bikery in Moncton, says cyclists should stick to the right of the lane when it's safe to do so. (Clara Baillot/ICI Radio-Canada acadie)
Cowling said cyclists can help by doing their part by consistently using hand signals.

"You want to be clear as a cyclist with your actions, because that makes it easier for someone in a car to react to what you're going to do."

She said it's best for people on bicycles to stay to the right of the lane when it's safe to do so, but depending on road conditions, like dirt and potholes, it's not always possible.

"If it's not safe for me to be there I'm going to have to pull out of the lane."

The Motor Vehicle Act now states, "a driver of a motor vehicle shall not pass a bicycle travelling in the same direction unless there is sufficient space to do so safely."

It adds, "motorists may cross the centre line while passing bicycles when it is safe to do so."

But if a driver fails to leave a cyclist one metre of space, it is an offence that comes with a fine of $172.50 and three demerit points.

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.

With files from Information Morning Moncton