Ellen's law in Gallant government's plans for new legislature session

The Gallant government intends to change the Motor Vehicle Act to improve safety for cyclists in the session of the legislature that begins Tuesday.

Motor Vehicle Act changes to protect cyclists are planned for session that begins with budget Tuesday

Cyclists in the province recently renewed their push for the one-metre rule after the death of competitive cyclist Ellen Watters. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

The Gallant government intends to change the Motor Vehicle Act to improve safety for cyclists in the legislature session that begins Tuesday.

The promise of change follows the death of competitive cyclist Ellen Watters, who was struck by a vehicle while cycling near Sussex before Christmas.

The death of Watters, 28, led cyclists to push for "Ellen's law," which would force motorists to stay a metre away from cyclists when passing them.

Municipal councils in Saint John, Moncton and Edmundston were among those to throw their support behind the idea and call on the provincial government to change the Motor Vehicle Act.

Family and friends of Ellen Watters have been pushing for New Brunswick to change the Motor Vehicle Act and require motorists to give cyclists one metre of space when passing them. (Facebook)
In announcing its priorities Friday for the coming legislative session, the Gallant government indicated it would follow through on the call for improved cycling safety.

"Legislation expected to be introduced during this sitting includes changes to the Motor Vehicle Act to improve the safety of cyclists and reinforce the importance of sharing the road," says a government news release.

In the days following Watters's death on Dec. 27, Public Safety Minister Denis Landry issued a statement saying, the government had been aware for several months of the proposed policy to improve the safety of cyclists  "and is giving it serious consideration."

Member of the cycling community said they first submitted a former proposal for a one-metre rule in New Brunswick in November 2015, but it received a "lukewarm" response from elected officials.

In the spring of 2016, Watters finished first in the 80.5-km Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville in New Jersey. In October, Watters signed a contract with the Union Cycliste Internationale women's team Colavita/Bianchi for the 2017 season.

The legislature session will open Tuesday at 1 p.m. with the tabling of the 2017-18 budget.

Other legislation on the government's agenda deals with issues such as animal cruelty and maximizing the use of health professionals such as ambulance personnel.