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N.B. cyclists continue to push for Motor Vehicle Act amendments

Click to play video 'Marking 3 years since Ellen Watters’ death' Marking 3 years since Ellen Watters’ death
WATCH: It's been three years since cyclist Ellen Watters was struck and killed while training in Sussex. Her death brought forward new laws, but as Travis Fortnum reports, cyclist feel there’s a long way to go.

A statement issued by New Brunswick’s Department of Public Safety provides a new hope for a group of cycling advocates.

Nick Cameron, Government Liaison for Saint John Cycling, is part of a working group within the province.

He says they had been engaged in discussion with the province over recommended amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act since competitive cyclist Ellen Watters was struck and killed in December 2016.

“I can recall when Ellen Watters had passed,” Cameron says. “Her mother being in the news and, I think at one point she says she can recall Ellen telling her that it would probably be her death until she would see safer rules in New Brunswick.”

READ MORE: Friends remember New Brunswick cyclist Ellen Watters, call for provincial road safety change

Her death inspired Ellen’s Law, which requires motorists to leave one metre between them and a cyclist when passing.

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“But it was only one piece of the puzzle.”

Nick Cameron takes his one-year-old-daughter to daycare by bike, even in the snow.
Nick Cameron takes his one-year-old-daughter to daycare by bike, even in the snow. Travis Fortnum

According to Cameron, a report drafted by the working group in 2018 includes rules around dooring, giving municipalities the authority to designate certain sidewalks as bike-friendly.

“We worked with the previous governments,” says Cameron. “Unfortunately, an election happened and that’s when they told us that they won’t be taking it any further.”

A letter obtained by Global News signed by Premier Blaine Higgs and delivered to the working group in December reads:

“We are aware of your organization’s desire for cycling safety amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act and although we will continue to promote shared use of our highways we are not currently considering making any further changes at this time.”

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A letter sent to the working group by New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.
A letter sent to the working group by New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. Travis Fortnum

Cameron says this letter pushed the working group to call for talks to continue.

“I think that we owe it to Ellen Watters to continue her legacy and to follow through on what we said we were going to do in 2017.”

Now a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety says those walks will continue.

“While government does not plan to make further changes at this time,” says department spokesperson Coreen Enos, “it continues to meet with advocates for various ideas to improve road safety, including cycling safety advocates, to assess the potential for their ideas to reduce collisions, injuries and deaths.”

READ MORE: Tougher rules coming to make driving on New Brunswick highways safer

In fact, the department says those talks were never over.

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“Staff with the Department of Public Safety indicated to advocates last month that they would be continuing discussions in the new year and staff have been in contact with those advocates again today to reiterate that.”

To Cameron and his group of cycling advocates, this is welcome – but confusing – news.

Nick Cameron hopes the province will move forward with the recommendations.
Nick Cameron hopes the province will move forward with the recommendations. Travis Fortnum

“They’re saying that they do want to work with us on the recommendations of the working group,” he says.

“However, our point to them was that’s not the message that we received from the premier.”

The impact the recommendations in the working group’s report will have remains unclear.

You can read their full report here.