Velo NB would like to express their condolences to the families and friends of the two cyclists killed by motorists in the past two weeks, one in Moncton and the other in Saint John. These are not isolated incidents, accidents and fatalities involving cyclists have been all to frequent on our New Brunswick roads. This does not even take into account the near misses that cyclists are subject to while trying to enjoy our roadways they are entitled to use. Whether its print or social media the lack of understanding of laws governing our roads by the general public is sadly lacking. Improvements are needed both in driver education programs for new drivers and ongoing public education.
A growing interest in Active Transportation which turned into a surge during the COVID pandemic has not been matched by all communities in New Brunswick with investments in AT infrastructure. Six years after the death of Ellen Watters which resulted in Ellens Law little has been accomplished by the provincial government in the way of educating the public on the rights of cyclists to use roadways, providing a strong regulatory framework under the Motor Vehicle Act to support safe cycling, or investments in improving Active Transportation.
Velo NB have repeatedly stated that New Brunswicker’s who are out cycling are improving their physical and mental health and providing benefits to the environment by reducing greenhouse gases by taking cars off the road. This increase in cycling has been aided by the accelerating growth and usage of E-Bikes. The provincial government and local governments need to acknowledge this growth with increased investments in AT infrastructure and strong regulations to improve safety for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
What needs to be done;
1/ Establish a print and social media campaign to be run each year to educate drivers on their responsibilities regarding road safety with respect to cyclists and vulnerable road users. A campaign which ran after the tragic death of Ellen Watters was sadly discontinued two years after she passed away. The province should instruct Driver Training Programs to include a section on driver responsibilities and safety concerns around cyclists and vulnerable road users. Driver exams should include sections on cyclist safety.
2/ Velo NB needs to be listened to in our discussions with the Department of Public Safety. The recommendations we have made in our meetings with the provincial government over the past six years which would provide a higher standard of safety on our roads are often dismissed out of hand by civil servants. We never need to hear again from a Minister of Public Safety that “cycling safety is a low priority”.
3/ New Brunswick does very little to educate drivers that we have Ellens Law in effect in this province. The education program for both New Brunswicker’s and tourists entering this province should include billboards notifying drivers that 1 metre of space has to be given to cyclists when passing them on roadways. An increase in signage is needed throughout the province reminding drivers that a 1 metre law is in effect and that roads are to be shared.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS AN INDIVIDUAL
Call or email your MLA to ask for action on implementing new regulations under the Motor Vehicle Act and ask for improved investments in Active Transportation, and driver education campaigns.