'Historic day': P.E.I. cyclists now protected by 1 metre law

The one-metre law to protect cyclists on Island roads has been passed in the Legislature by the P.E.I. government.

Ellen's Law was passed in New Brunswick May 5

N.B.'s 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 run. She was 28. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

The one-metre law to protect cyclists on Island roads has been passed in the Legislature by the P.E.I. government. 

The law requires a driver to keep that distance between their vehicle and a cyclist when driving on a roadway.

Transportation minister Paula Biggar says the law was passed after consultation with Cycling PEI.

New Brunswick's government adopted the same law, known as Ellen's Law on May 5. It came months after competitive cyclist Ellen Watters of Sussex, N.B. died in following a collision with a car.  

"If you are on a piece of the highway that may not have a strip of highway for the bicycle to drive on, the motor vehicle now has permission to cross the centre line to go around," said Biggar, "because right now the way the legislation had read is that you must not cross the centre lines." 

Drivers can also be fined if they open their door and hit a cyclist. The fines will range from $200 to $500.

"There have been incidents where cyclists have been injured because of a driver's side door opening and having an impact and that catapults them over the top of the door obviously and can result, and has in the past resulted in very serious injury to the cyclist." said Biggar.

Concerning issue

She added it was identified as an issue by Cycling PEI.

The new share the road initiative is welcomed by Cycling PEI, the group that advocates for cycling safety.

"It's an historic day because now we have some legislation that's going to protect cyclists where we never had that in the past," said Mike Connolly, adding the group started asking for the legislation back in 2008. 

"I think the time wasn't right in 2008, but with the recent spate of accidents and more people cycling and more people commuting to work, and more motor vehicle-cycling accidents, I think the time time is right now."

The province will offer an educational campaign to make sure drivers and cyclists know about the new law. 

With files from Malcolm Campbell