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Press Release: Cyclist Death Sparks Call for Safer Passing Law in BC

Cyclist death sparks call for Safer Passing Law in BC


The death of rising cycling star Ellen Watters ​has top Canadian cyclists and local advocacy organizations​ calling for a Safer Passing Law​ to protect BC’s vulnerable road users. As professional cyclists from across North America converge on Metro Vancouver for the BC Superweek​ race series, Watters, killed by a ​motorist on a training ride in December 2016, is still top of mind. Her breakout performance in this series last year led to her first pro contract.

According to ​ICBC, 740 cyclists will be injured and seven will be killed by cars in BC from June through September. Former teammates of Watters in town for the series will train on BC roads and are keenly aware of the risks. Two-time Olympian ​Tara Whitten​ from ​The Cyclery-4iiii team shares,​

      “Losing Ellen was a horrible reminder that far too often we are not safe. It was a reminder of all those times when I thought I was visible to motorists only to feel the blast of a vehicle passing way too close, as a harsh reminder of my vulnerability.”

 The BC Road Safety Law Reform Group is recommending a Safer Passing Law​ that would require:

  •  A motor vehicle driver pass a vulnerable road user (a person cycling, walking, using a wheelchair, riding a horse) by at least  1.5 metres; ​and​
  •  If there is more than one lane for traffic in the same direction, a motor vehicle driver would have to have to pass in the lane  next to the one a vulnerable road user is traveling in.

 This law would make cycling and walking safer and more comfortable for road users. As Watters’ sister Lily Watters, a New Westminster resident, and avid cycle commuter states:​

     “Unfortunately, many of us already know about these risks from personal experience, or the loss​ of someone dear...we need better laws to keep cyclists safe on the roads.”

 Safe passing distances have been specified by over 27 jurisdictions in North America, including Ontario,Quebec and Nova Scotia as well as several in Europe. Following the death of Ellen Watters, the New Brunswick legislature ​moved quickly to pass “Ellen’s Law”- a safer passing distance law. The BC Road Safety Law Reform Group is calling on supporters to visit ​and​ share their experiences with vehicles on the road. Cyclists are also encouraged to share their experiences online by Tweeting to @bccycle and using the ​#PassSafeBC​ hashtag.​  


The British Columbia Cycling Coalition and our 20 member organizations represent approximately 50,000 supporters across B.C. We work with governments, businesses and organizations to enable everyone in B.C. to safely cycle for their daily trips, recreation and tourism. | Twitter: @bccycle| Facebook:​ bccycle


The BC Road Safety Law Reform Group is comprised of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, the British Columbia Cycling Coalition (BCCC), HUB Cycling, and health researchers.

For further information, photos, and interview requests:

● Richard Campbell, BC Cycling Coalition,, 778-891-1764

● Justine Clift, Teammate,, 778-228-5215

● Lily Watters, Family Member,, 604-836-3623

● Tara Whitten, Teammate,, 780-893-0828



Lily Watters - Sister of Ellen Watters

When we advocate for better, more inclusive rules on our roadways, we make ourselves accountable for our joy in cycling. I have been a cycling commuter since I started riding my bike to school at 9, and a "lifestyle" cyclist since a few years before that. I've lately started racking up kilometers on a road bike, so I can say without exaggeration that riding a bike has been a big part of my life for a long time. But I don't want to give the impression that I'm just in this to increase my personal freedom. This isn't just about making safe decisions as individuals or getting more of what each of us may want in our cycling niche, but being ambassadors for our sport and our choice of transportation. Taking a critical look, and speaking up about cycling safety forces us to acknowledge the risk involved. Unfortunately, many of us already know about these risks from personal experience, near misses for a friend, or the loss of someone dear. There is too much at stake to only complain about motorists after a ride, and too much to be gained to only post our happiness on social media. We already know what a group of focused cyclists can accomplish when they challenge themselves in their discipline; let's put that to work in advocating for better laws to keep cyclists safe on the roads.

Tara Whitten- 3x World Champion, 2x Olympian and Olympic Bronze Medalist, Teammate

Cycling is a beautiful sport in all its forms: as recreation, as competition, as transportation. I believe that a society that values cycling will be healthier, happier, and greener, by reducing the use of cars and getting more people more active more often. However, for this to happen, cyclists need to feel safer on our roads. Losing Ellen Watters was a horrible reminder that far too often we are not safe. It was a reminder of all those times when I thought I was visible to motorists only to feel the blast of a vehicle passing way too close, as a harsh reminder of my vulnerability. Change is needed at all levels: from cyclists, ensuring that they are visible at all times with lights and reflective clothing; from motorists,ensuring that their attention is always on the road, and from government, ensuring that rules, regulations, and education are in place to create safer roads for all road users. I believe that cyclists have a right to feel safe on our roads, and I believe that if we work together, we can make that happen!

Additional Photos: - Ellen Watters, photo by Matt Lazzarotto - Tara Whitten Lily Watters





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