New Brunswick

Cyclist using pool noodle to demonstrate Ellen's Law says he was hit by car

Avid cyclist Harold Jarche said he went for a bike ride around 1 p.m. Thursday to celebrate the law having gone into effect earlier in the day.

Ellen's Law was passed after the death of Canadian star cyclist Ellen Watters

Harold Jarche says the one-metre distance between cyclists and cars is still not enough to protect cyclists on the road. (Twitter/Harold Jarche)

A Sackville cyclist says he was hit by a car hours after Ellen's Law came into effect in New Brunswick.

Avid cyclist Harold Jarche said he went for a bike ride around 1 p.m. Thursday to celebrate the law having gone into effect earlier in the day.

"They actually hit me and I wound up pounding on their car saying, 'Hey, I am here,'" Jarche said. "The noodle was fine, don't worry about the noodle. … I was hit."

Ellen's Law was passed after the death of Canadian star cyclist Ellen Watters. She was struck by a car while on a training ride in Sussex on Dec. 23 and died four days later.

Driver didn't see him

Luckily, Jarche said, he was hit at a slow speed, about five kilometres an hour, and he and his bike are fine.

"I was making the right turn," he said. "Oncoming traffic made a left turn. There was a car and I looked and I said, 'OK, I think the driver has seen me.' I continued on the secondary street, the driver made a sharp right turn right into me, as they were trying to exit the street into a parking lot."

Ellen Watters died after being involved in a collision with a vehicle on a Dec. 23 training run. She was 28. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

He said the elderly driver didn't see him.

"He completely cut me off, there was no place for me to go," Jarche said.

"I just couldn't believe it because I had my blue bike, the orange pool noodle, and I was wearing a bright yellow T-shirt that said, 'Share the road.'"

Jarche, who is 57, described the hit as "almost like a gentle bump."

Feels lack of respect

He said his noodle wasn't even a metre long.

"I wasn't able to get a pool noodle that was long enough that would show the 39 inches or the one metre from the handlebar, which is basically the edge of the cyclist," he said.

He said he finds the Sackville area has an anti-bicycle culture and cyclists don't get the respect they deserve.

"Even as a pedestrian, I get more respect."

On Friday morning, he saw a driver do what is known as "threading the needle," Jarche said. In this manoeuvre, a driver passes a cyclist quickly "and zooms back in with oncoming traffic, and the oncoming traffic is forced to move off to side of the road." 

Under Ellen's Law, that's technically illegal, he said.

"You are only allowed to pass if there is room in the oncoming lane."

Law not enough

Jarche said he thinks the new law is inadequate. One metre doesn't provide enough clearance between drivers and cyclists when cars are going 100 kilometres or more, he said.

"Drivers can't judge the distance, as even just my little sample showed. They don't know what a metre is."

People walked the streets of Saint John with signs in support of Ellen's Law on Jan. 1, 2017. (Philip Drost/CBC News)

Jarche said he's had many close calls on his bicycle.

"Most drivers are good, but there are still a lot of drivers who are distracted and then there's a small percentage of drivers who are actually aggressive." 

For safer roads, he said, there should be driver testing for people after they're 60 or 65 years old, more investments in bicycle infrastructure, and a reduction in speed limits on town streets, from 50 kilometres an hour to 30.

Public responds to noodle

Jarche said people in the community had a positive reaction to his excursion with the pool noodle. Some gave him a thumbs up when they drove by, and others told him it was a good idea. Some confessed they didn't realize how much space a metre required.

The pool noodle idea came from a cyclist in Toronto "to help keep cars at a distance," Jarche said. 

Cycling is his main transportation, and he doesn't own a car. He's been cycling for 27 years and does it year round, covering at least 8,000 kilometres a year.