New Brunswick

Edmundston council endorses calls for 'Ellen's law'

The City of Edmundston has now joined calls for the New Brunswick government to adopt "Ellen's law" to ensure motorists stay at least a metre away from cyclists while passing them.

Legislative change to protect cyclists from passing vehicles is 'essential,' says Mayor Cyrille Simard

Ellen Watters, 28, was widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

The City of Edmundston has now joined calls for the New Brunswick government to adopt "Ellen's law" to ensure motorists stay at least a metre away from cyclists while passing them.

City council endorsed the campaign for legislative amendments on Tuesday.

"It is unacceptable that cyclists lose their lives on our roads," Mayor Cyrille Simard said in a statement.

"The proposed amendments are essential and we encourage the provincial government to act quickly."

Public awareness initiatives should also be put in place, Simard added.

The lobby stems from the death of cycling star Ellen Watters last month.

Watters, 28, died on Dec. 27, four days after being involved in a collision with a vehicle during a training run in Sussex.

"You wouldn't expect anyone who is a cyclist to go outside and risk their lives all the time," said Simard in an interview.

"We obviously need some more awareness … the road has to be shared."

Simard acknowledged the law would be difficult to enforce.

"It's a challenge," he said. "I prefer to see it as a way for us to make sure everyone understands the road has to be shared."

The cities of Moncton and Saint John have also supported the initiative in recent weeks, along with cycling and wellness associations and bicycle stores.

A petition proposes a distance of one metre be maintained between a cyclist and a motor vehicle in areas limited to 50 km/h and 1.5 metres when the maximum authorized speed exceeds 50 km/h.

Proposal getting 'serious consideration'

The provincial government is giving "serious consideration" to the proposed policy, Elaine Bell, director of communications for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, has said.

"The safety and security of New Brunswickers on our roads and highways is a priority," she wrote.

One-metre laws are already on the books elsewhere in Atlantic Canada.

Under Nova Scotia's Bill 93, drivers can be fined up to $800 for failing to leave proper clearance when passing cyclists. Cyclists can also face fines of up to $225 for not using bike lanes.

Ontario passed a one-metre law in September 2015. Motorists are required to keep a distance of one metre between the vehicle and the cyclist they pass, or face a $110 fine and two demerit points added to their licence.