For several years, Saint John Cycling has lobbied provincial government to modernize the Motor Vehicle Act to address current road safety issues such as distracted driving, enforcement of Ellen’s Law and create rules for the proper use of bike lanes.
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What’s the latest?
December 2019 – Premier Higgs has informed Saint John Cycling his government will not pursue further improvements to the motor vehicle act at this time.
January 2020 – Saint John Cycling representatives met senior staff at the Department of Public Safety to discuss next steps. The department has committed to working with the cycling community to draft new amendments and supporting information for the minister to consider. We are asking all party leaders to clearly state their position to assure the minister these amendments would be supported in the legislature by all parties. Road safety is a non-partisan issue.
Since August 2016, representatives of Saint John Cycling, Fredericton Folks on Spokes and Velo NB have met with provincial government officials to discuss needed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, including a one-metre clearance rule when passing cyclists.
In December 2016, competitive cyclist Ellen Watters was struck by a vehicle while training near her home in Sussex. She died from her injuries. She was 28 years old.
After Watters death, New Brunswickers rallied across the province demanding stronger laws to protect vulnerable road users, such as cyclists. A one-meter clearance rule, known as Ellen’s Law, was introduced to the legislature in March 2017 and a Bicycle Safety Strategy Working Group was formed under the Department of Public Safety to make further recommendations for safety legislation.
The working group provided a draft report to provincial government in July 2018. After the fall election, representatives from Saint John Cycling, Folks on Spokes and Velo NB met with the new Minister of Public Safety, Carl Urquhart, to discuss the recommendations. After months of follow up with government officials, Premier Higgs has informed Saint John Cycling and Velo NB that his government would be taking no further actions with the recommendations.
“I am disturbed by the way our elected officials pass off their promises and responsibilities,” said Nancy Watters, mother of Ellen Watters.
“I was disappointed,” said Wayne Arrowsmith, Advocacy Director for Velo NB and member of the working group. “The amendments we are asking for are to enhance basic safety, promote the physical and mental health of New Brunswickers, and aid in the promotion of cycle tourism.
“Unlike programs and infrastructure, these amendments cost nothing. It’s a no-brainer.”
Recommendations from the cycling advocates would address enforcement issues, create a legal definition of a bike lane and provide municipalities the authority to allow bicycles on designated sidewalks.
“Without clearly defining a bike lane in the law, it leaves matters open interpretation to interpretation,” says Nick Cameron, Advocacy Lead for Saint John Cycling. “In 2011, Saint John city staff were caught in a red tape nightmare when attempting to implement temporary bike lanes on Main Street. It was a disagreement on the definition of roadway which held up the project for weeks. These kinds of disagreement discourage future attempts to implement safe bike lanes and is frankly a waste of civil servants’ time.”
All recommended amendments can be reviewed here.
Letter to Premier Higgs and all Party Leaders – January 2020
Joint Press Release – January 2020
Letter from Premier Higgs – December 2019
Motor Vehicle Act – Recommended Amendments – A White Paper – June 2018
Wayne Arrowsmith, Advocacy Director for Velo NB
Nick Cameron, Advocacy Lead for Saint John Cycling