Cycling advocacy groups push government to adopt more legislation

Cycling advocacy groups in the province are calling on the government to adopt more road safety recommendations. 

Two cycling advocacy groups — Saint John Cycling and Velo NB — criticized the government's inaction in a recent news release. 

"The Higgs Government will not adopt road safety recommendations by the provincial Bicycle Safety Working Group," the news release said, citing a letter it received from Premier Blaine Higgs in December.

The provincial working group comprised of police, civic planners, highway engineers and provincial cycling representatives, was formed in 2017 in response to the death of Ellen Watters. Watters was a competitive cyclist who was hit and killed by a vehicle while training near her home in Sussex in 2016. 

In response to her death and public outcry, a requirement for motorists to give a one-metre clearance for cyclists was passed in 2017, which became known as Ellen's Law. 

Nick Cameron, the advocacy lead for Saint John Cycling, called the one-meter rule a "first step" for increasing the safety of cyclists on the roads. 

Submitted by Nick Cameron

"We've had members of our organization asking for a number of amendments to the motor vehicle act … for a number of years and that effort really gained momentum when we saw the tragic death of Ellen Watters," Cameron said. 

Cameron and other cycling advocates said more rules need to be put into legislation to keep cyclists safe. 

Among a slew of recommendations, cycling advocacy groups would like to see harsher penalties for distracted driving. 

"We're still the lowest in Canada," said Wayne Arrowsmith, the advocacy director for Velo NB and a member of the Bicycle Safety Working Group.

Submitted by Emily Flynn

In New Brunswick, distracted drivers are fined $172.50 and lose three points from their licence.

Some of the other recommendations the groups would like to government adopt, include legislation that would make it illegal to park in marked bike lanes, an updated definition for what constitutes a bicycle helmet and rules against "dooring" — when a cyclist is hit by an opened door of a vehicle.

Despite the government saying it would not be pursuing the recommendations from the working group, Cameron recently received an email from the Deputy Minister of Public Safety asking his organization meet with the department on January 28. 

The government did not make anyone available to CBC for an interview Thursday. 

Arrowsmith is frustrated the government has introduced license plate changes, an off-road vehicle act and changed inspection stickers, but have so far failed to protect cyclists. 

"Why do cyclists in this province have to stage rallies like they did three years ago after the death of Ellen Watters? Why is it we have to do that to get legislation passed?" Arrowsmith asked during an interview with Information Morning Fredericton. 

"This legislation is a no-brainer and government just doesn't seem to get it." 

Cameron and Arrowsmith said Carl Uruqhart, the minister of public safety, told them in 2018 that adopting more cycling legislation was a "low priority."