Sidewalk signs a reminder for pedestrians at rail crossings

City of Warman workers Grant Goertzen (kneeling, left to right) and Nathan Ruf install a rail crossing safety sidewalk sign on 6th Avenue South as part of Public Rail Safety Week while (back row, left to right) Warman Fire Chief Russ Austin, CN Police Constable Shayn Olson, Warman Mayor Sheryl Spence and Warman City Manager Bob Smith look on.

CN Rail has come up with a way of reminding phone-obsessed pedestrians to glance up once in a while, particularly when they’re about to cross a set of railway tracks.

Yellow and black stencilled warning signs that show a train silhouette and the words, ‘Look, Listen, Live’ were painted on sidewalks at the CN Rail crossings on 6th Avenue South and Industrial Road in Warman on Friday, September 28.

The warning signs were installed by city workers during Public Rail Safety Week (PRSW) September 23-29, an annual Operation Lifesaver initiative that encourages people to be safe while travelling near railway crossings or tracks. The City of Warman signed a proclamation endorsing the PRSW campaign on Thursday, September 27.

“We need to get the message out to pedestrians that they have to pay attention when crossing tracks,” said CN Police Constable Shayn Olson in an interview at the 6th Avenue South crossing on September 28. “In communities like Warman, especially, where the tracks run right through town and we have residential neighbourhoods on both sides of the rail line, and where there are a lot of trains going through town every day, safety is so important.

“Trains are big, they’re fast and they’re quiet. If you’re a pedestrian, take that extra second to glance up and be safe.”

Warman Fire Chief Russ Austin said the sidewalk signs are a good idea because they are in the line of vision for people looking down at their phones.

“The stencils will definitely catch the eye of people walking towards the tracks before crossing,” said Austin. “Taking an extra second to look before you cross might save your life.”

Both the 6th Avenue South and Industrial Road crossings are used regularly by young people walking and riding bikes on their way to and from school and Prairie Oasis Park; and who may be paying more attention to their phones than their surroundings.

Warman Mayor Sheryl Spence said the sidewalk signs are a helpful reminder to people on foot or on bicycles at the signalized crossings.

But, she added, the awareness program also applies to  informal crossings, which are discouraged by both the city and the railway company.

“Many people take short cuts across CN property,” said Spence. “This is something both CN and the City are trying to mitigate so that we can be proactive and not wait until someone is hurt. We all have the same goal, and that is to keep our rail crossings safe and continue to remind our residents to use these crossings safely.” she said.

Saskatchewan has about 4,700 public railway crossings across the province, which amounts to 20 per cent of the Canadian total, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure and the Western Canadian Shortline Railway Association.

Olson said with thousands of kilometers of track and thousands of rail crossings in towns and cities across the country, CN Rail is implementing the sidewalk warning signs in as many communities as possible.

“We had them installed in Humboldt recently,” said Olson. “It’s an ongoing thing. We also focus on school presentations, traffic enforcement and getting that safety message out to people; not just during Rail Safety Week, but all year long.”