Star New Brunswick cyclist Ellen Watters dies from crash injuries
Family and friends push for 'Ellen's law,' a 1-metre rule for drivers passing cyclists
Ellen Watters, a Canadian competitive cyclist critically injured in a collision with a car while on a training ride in Sussex, N.B., Dec. 23, died Wednesday.
The New Brunswick-born Watters, who was widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling, was 28.
Last spring, Watters won first place in the Kugler-Anderson Tour of Sommerville, an 80.5km race held in New Jersey on Memorial Day. In October, she signed a contract with the Union Cycliste Internationale Women's Team Colavita/Bianchi for the 2017 season.
Her roommate and fellow cyclist Emily Flynn said Watters was a happy, enthusiastic person with an unflagging passion for the sport. She was a member of the Ottawa racing program called the Cyclery.
Many in the Canadian cycling community have expressed their condolences on social media.
It is with great sadness that we share the news that Ellen Watters has passed away. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.—@CyclingCanada
Very saddened to hear about the tragic accident of Ellen Watters while riding near Sussex. My deepest condolences to the Watters family.—@christianmeier
"Most recently, there was a video that I posted of her on the side of the road after a ride," said Flynn.
"She threw some snow up in the air with her enthusiastic laugh and smile. She was so excited we had some snow. Her lust for life is something that I will always remember and hold onto.
"She was always very modest. She was always doing something and planning for the next thing."
Watters was also an advocate for better laws to protect cyclists on the roads, according to Flynn.
In a March 2016 blog post, Watters described the exhilaration of riding in Tucson, Ariz.
"Cars respect cyclists for the most part, but I had little need to be worried," Watters wrote, "because I usually had at least a metre of road space just for me!"
In a July 2016 interview with CBC Radio's Shift New Brunswick, Watters acknowledged the dangers associated with the sport.
"There are crashes," Watters said. "Sometimes, there are major crashes," she said. "I have definitely hit the deck a few times, but I have been lucky enough to get back up."
According to Watters's mother, the cyclist once said that if she "had to die for the roads to be safer for other cyclists, then [she] would be OK with that."
In the wake of Watters's death, her family and friends are orchestrating 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," said Flynn. "We want the one-metre rule that's already in effect in some provinces to come into effect in New Brunswick."
Under Ontario's one-metre law, passed in September 2015, motorists are required to keep a distance of one metre between the vehicle and the cyclists they pass, or receive a $110 fine and two demerit points added to their licence.
"A lot of cars and drivers think they've given enough space," said Flynn, "but it's not nearly enough. It's a big hunk of metal that you're driving. People don't realize the damage that they can do."
More information on the campaign for Ellen's law will be made available on a Facebook page in the coming weeks, Flynn said.
Watters, who was originally from Apohaqui, N.B., was struck by a Volkswagen Golf travelling in the same direction on Riverview Drive East in Lower Cove, according to RCMP Sgt. André Pepin.
Conditions were sunny and clear when the collision occurred around 2:30 p.m. Dec. 23.
"We are still investigating," said Sgt. Jim MacPherson of Sussex RCMP.
As for whether charges could be laid, "we are going to determine that at the end of the investigation," said MacPherson.
While "there were many factors at play" in the crash, Flynn said, tighter laws could prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
Flynn hopes Watters's death will be a catalyst for drivers to use extra caution and yield to cyclists.
"We are going to honour her by making sure the roads are safer," she said.
"That is what she would want."