'Ellen's law' gets endorsement from Saint John city council

Council unanimously called Monday for a new law that would force drivers to stay a metre away from cyclists when passing them.

Council passes call for new law that forces motorists to stay a metre away from cyclists when passing them

Ellen Watters, widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling, died after being involved in a collision with a vehicle on a Dec. 23 training run. She was 28. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

Saint John city council added its voice Monday to the call for "Ellen's law," which supporters say would make roads safer for cyclists in New Brunswick after the death of cycling star Ellen Watters.

Council unanimously backed the campaign for legislation that would require drivers to stay a metre away from cyclists when passing them. 

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

"I am hopeful that with the passing of this and your support council, that it will simply allow me on behalf of council to write a letter to the appropriate ministers to ask this to continue," he said.

Cyclists in the province renewed their push for the new rule after Watters's death late last month.

The 28-year old was injured in a collision with a car while on a training ride in Sussex on Dec. 23. She died Dec. 27.

In the wake of her death, her family and friends have orchestrated a campaign to make the one-metre rule a law for motorists in New Brunswick.

"We are going to fight to get a law in place called Ellen's law," Emily Flynn, Watters's roommate and fellow cyclist, said in a previous interview with CBC News.

"We want the one-metre rule that's already in effect in some provinces to come into effect in New Brunswick."

Law already in place in other provinces

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.

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

Following Watters's death, the Saint John cycling community also called for a change to New Brunswick's Motor Vehicle Act by walking and biking to Saint John's City Hall on Jan. 1.

There the crowd heard from cyclists, advocates and politicians, among them Liberal MLA Rick Doucet, who told the group he would champion changing the legislation.

Provincial government gives 'serious consideration' to policy proposal

Earlier this month, New Brunswick Minister of Justice and Public Safety Denis Landry also issued a statement saying that "the safety of New Brunswickers on our roads and highways is our priority and our thoughts are with the [Watters] family during this difficult time."

While unable to speak to the specifics of the Watters case, Landry said "government has been aware of this policy proposal for several months and is giving it serious consideration."

On Monday, Saint John council also passed a call for a provincial education about road safety for all forms of transportation on provincial roads.