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Call for #EllensLaw Gains Momentum After Tragic Death

by John Symon

January 01, 2017 (Sussex, NB) – The recent tragic death of Ellen Watters, 28, a rising star in Canada’s cycling scene, has sparked more calls for minimum passing distance laws between motorists and cyclists in New Brunswick, her home province and across the country.

Ellens Law  ©  Saint John Cycling Club
Watters, who rode for The Cyclery-Opus in 2016 and was turning pro to ride with US-based Colavita-Bianchi team in 2017, was struck by a car on Dec. 23 during a training ride near her hometown of Sussex, New Brunswick; she died of her injuries on Dec. 27. Reports indicate the car was travelling in the same direction as Watters and she was hit from behind suffering massive head trauma.

Ellen Watters wins Battenkill  ©
The talented Watters won the Tour of the Battenkill and Tour of Sommerville in 2016 – both prominent races in the USA; she was also invited to join the national team in August when she won a Belgian kermesse. Vince Caceres, owner of Ottawa-based The Cyclery store described her as “always a very happy, smiling, positive person,” full of vibrancy, and always knowing how to cheer people up.

Watters on the podium at Sommerville  ©
“We hope that we can channel some of Ellen’s fantastic energy, and use it to improve the safety conditions for cyclists on our roadways,” reads part of a statement issued by Watter’s family. “We would ask everyone to spread awareness of the necessity of cyclist advocacy, and to contact their local politicians to help get changes made.”

The Saint John Cycling Club has posted an Ellen’s Law page on its website, calling for a minimum 1-metre passing distance between motorists and cyclists in New Brunswick, among other safety measures. While many have called for such legislation for years, this proposal now has a name.

The club also provides details about how to pressure provincial legislators, along with a petition (see link below). Rallies took place in Moncton and St. John on January 1 in support of Ellen’s Law.

Social media has seen much activity with many demanding that politicians take action to ensure safe distance laws are enacted in various provinces across Canada. Louis Garneau, a former Olympic-cyclist-turned-businessman, is one of many making such calls.

Ontario was the first Canadian province to enact such a law in June, 2015, requiring a minimum 1-metre passing distance; the lobby group Share the Road was influential in pushing for this legislation. Quebec enacted a law in the summer of 2016 requiring either 1metre or 1.5 metres, depending on the posted speed limit on a particular road. Nova Scotia also has similar legislation reports The Toronto Star. More than 27 US states have also enacted such laws.

Arianne Bonhomme, Ellen Watters, Kinley Gibson  ©  pedalmag.com

When Velo NB advocacy chair, Wayne Arrowsmith, met in November 2015 with New Brunswick officials to talk about a similar safe passing distance law, he described the reception as “lukewarm” reports CBC. Arrowsmith says that he is frustrated that the proposal has been talked about for 18 months, but nothing has been done yet.

A blog entitled “Memories of Ellen” has been set up with stories, comments and fond memories from many people whose lives Watters touched.

Memories of Ellen here.
St John Cycling Club here.
Toronto Star article here.
Ontario’s legislation here:
Quebec’s legislation here.
Map of US states with such laws here.
Pedal’s previous report on Watters here.

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