New Brunswick

Changes to protect P.E.I. cyclists expected 'in the coming year'

As a lobby continues to create a law requiring New Brunswick motorists to stay a metre away from cyclists while passing them, government officials in P.E.I. are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss similar changes expected to be implemented "in the coming year."

As push for 'Ellen's law' continues in N.B., Island officials to discuss 1-metre rule with Cycling PEI

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 ride in Sussex, N.B. She was 28. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

As a lobby continues to create a law requiring New Brunswick motorists to stay a metre away from cyclists while passing them, government officials in P.E.I. are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss similar changes expected to be implemented "in the coming year."

Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy representatives are expected to meet with members of Cycling PEI, a non-profit group that represents cyclists, "to talk to them about the kind of changes that they would like to see," confirmed department spokesman Ron Ryder.

"That might include things like a safe passing distance — what they call the one-metre rule — for instance, or equipment requirements … We're really keeping a pretty open mind about it right now, he said.

"We want to hear what the cyclists are looking for."

Cyclists in New Brunswick renewed their push for a new one-metre rule last month, following the death of cycling star Ellen Watters.

Watters, 28, died on Dec. 27, four days after being injured in a collision with a car during a training ride in Sussex.

Earlier this week, ​Saint John city council added its voice to the call for the so-called "Ellen's law," which supporters say would make roads safer for cyclists across New Brunswick.

Mayor Don Darling said the mayors of Fredericton and Moncton are also pledging support for this legislation.

8-year push leads to definition of bicycle

Cycling PEI is "100 per cent behind the adoption of the Ellen's law" in New Brunswick, said executive director Mike Connolly.

"Whatever we can do to help them get that pushed through, we would gladly do so and eventually, we want to see it done here."

His group has spent the past eight years working to get a one-metre law implemented for the Island, he said. With the help of a law firm, the group reviewed the provincial Highway Traffic Act, identified areas that it wanted updated and submitted a report to the government.

We're finally getting some buy-in this time around, I think just with more coverage of cycling and more people on the road, that it's taking a bit of traction.- Mike Connolly, Cycling PEI

"We were trying to be the first province in Canada to roll it out, but that wasn't to be," said Connolly.

Instead, the first legislative changes were introduced just last fall — "the definition of a bicycle," he said.

Now, following Watters's death, the government requested Wednesday's meeting, said Connolly.

"We're finally getting some buy-in this time around, I think just with more coverage of cycling and more people on the road, that it's taking a bit of traction there now."

Regulatory route offers flexibility

Ryder said last fall's amendments were a crucial first step that helped "set the stage for what we expect to be some new regulations in the coming year."

"Even something that seems as simple as the definition of a bicycle isn't well spelled out in the act," he said. "Does it include mobility devices? Does it include electrical-assisted devices? You know that sort of thing had to be clarified before we could bring in meaningful legislation," he said. 

Ryder said there's no firm deadline in place, but regulatory measures can be implemented more quickly than legislative because they can be handled by executive council rather than requiring a vote in the legislature.

Regulatory changes would also allow the flexibility to "tweak" them if they "were ineffective in some way or didn't go far enough in some way," he said.

"It allows us to be much more responsive to the community needs and to the situation we see."

4 Es

It's "very important" to the government to have "safe sharing" of roads by vehicles and cyclists, "to have people be able to pursue active transportation and take advantage of [the Island's] infrastructure," said Ryder.

He believes effective legislation will help, but it will require a combination of "the four Es" — effective legislation, enforcement, education and engineering to provide the proper infrastructure, such as wide shoulders along roads.

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 for passing cyclists. Cyclists, too, 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 get a $110 fine and two demerit points added to their licence.

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