'A wake-up call': Sherwood Park bike crash renews legislative effort for cyclist safety

As cyclists recover from a fearsome weekend crash, a local MLA is renewing her effort to pass legislation that would require drivers to leave one metre between their vehicle and cyclists as they pass.

NDP MLA Annie McKitrick hopes to see one-metre rule introduced province-wide.

A group of cyclists were struck by a pickup truck Saturday on the Sherwood Park Freeway. MLA Annie McKitrick is pushing for new legislation that would force drivers to leave one metre of space between their vehicle and cyclists as they pass. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

After a weekend crash involving cyclists, a local MLA is renewing her effort to pass new bike safety legislation.

A pickup truck hit a group of 15 cyclists along the Sherwood Park Freeway on Saturday morning, leaving two riders with serious, but not life-threatening injuries. 

"I was really devastated because it was an accident that didn't need to happen," Sherwood Park MLA Annie McKitrick said.   

McKitrick said the incident strengthened her resolve to introduce a private member's bill that would require drivers to leave one metre between their vehicle and a cyclist as they pass. The bill has been in the works since spring 2017, she said.

"I think this incident has really been kind of a wake-up call on the need for the cycling community to get together, to advocate, and to ensure that cyclists and motorists know how to share the road safely," McKitrick said.

McKitrick is unsure when the bill will be introduced, with the legislature set to resume in late October and plenty of activity expected ahead of the 2019 election. But the idea has garnered the attention of Transportation Minister Brian Mason.

"I'm very interested in sitting down with MLA McKitrick and discussing aspects of her bill," Mason said Tuesday. "Obviously pedestrian and cyclist safety is a very important concern and it has to be addressed."

While there are other measures the province could consider, McKitrick said this particular rule was an attractive option since it would be relatively simple to implement.

The rule has been adopted by other provinces in recent years, including New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Ontario's legislation came into effect in September 2015, with offending drivers facing a $110 fine and two demerit points. Police officers in Ottawa strapped sensors to their bike handlebars that track the distance of passing motorists to enforce the legislation.

Jeff Jones, sales manager at a Sherwood Park bike shop, said he knew several cyclists involved in Saturday's accident. He expressed hope that a one-metre rule, if passed, would make drivers more vigilant around cyclists. 

"I think it's quite awesome to do that, coming from a commuting cycling background as well as a driver," he said.

RCMP spokesperson Const. Chantelle Kelly told CBC News Monday the investigation into Saturday's incident is ongoing and no charges have been laid.

"The cyclists were doing what they were supposed to do," she said, adding that police have no indication that the driver was distracted.

Cycle Logic, a bike shop on 109th Street at 87 Avenue that organized Saturday's ride, declined an interview with CBC News. In a Facebook post early Monday morning, the shop said one of the riders had been released from hospital while the other would stay for further tests and observation.