Railway safety and education, a number one priority for CN’s Cst. Richard Di Biase

This is a first for us, a guest blog from a valued member of the Operation Lifesaver community, Cst. Richard Di Biase of the CN Police Service.

Along with the City of Markham, Ontario, Cst. Di Biase spearheaded a new “See Tracks? Think Train!” sidewalk campaign. This safety message was painted on the sidewalks at select high-risk railway crossings in 2017.

The campaign has been well received, so we asked Cst. Richard Di Biase to walk us through, in his own words, how it came to fruition.

I have been involved with Operation Lifesaver for almost 12 years. Throughout this time, I have seen how valuable the program has been for thousands of school children and adults. I strongly believe that just one trespassing and crossing injury or fatality is too many.

CN Police Cst. Richard Di Biase

Cst. Richard Di Biase

The See Tracks? Think Train! campaign originated with one of my colleagues in the United States. As the Community Services Officer (CSO) with the CN Police Service covering the entire province of Ontario, I work closely with many of my colleagues across North America. The campaign originated in Chicago, Illinois, by CN Police Service Special Agent Eric Graf, a fellow CSO. During one of our meetings, we looked at expanding this campaign and bringing the concept into the CSO’s respective provinces and states of responsibility.

I approached the City of Markham with Drew Redden (CN’s Community Affairs Lead for Ontario) and was very pleased with how supportive they were. The simple, innovative concept inspired interest to use CN’s campaign at other grade crossings through the city. The City of Markham was very responsive and acted quickly to get this initiative off the ground after a series of meetings, including collaboration with the city’s roads operations department.

The first railway crossing we identified was in the heart of a residential neighbourhood, positioned between a shopping mall, a community centre and residential homes. In my experience as a police officer and CSO working within this community, I have had to issue traffic tickets near this railway crossing. I knew that the high level of pedestrian foot traffic over the railway crossing and the high frequency of freight and passenger trains traveling there would make this the perfect location to start our sidewalk campaign. I’ve delivered Operation Lifesaver presentations to the nearby schools and participated in local community events, so I knew how important it was to see this sidewalk campaign succeed.

Once this crossing was completed, we located another railway crossing in collaboration with City of Markham. To date, all CN grade crossings within the City of Markham have received this safety messaging on the sidewalk.

I’m proud to say our sidewalk campaign has opened the doors for other opportunities with municipal and provincial transit and freight railway operators throughout Canada, all of them eager to mirror our success within their operations. In eastern Ontario, the Belleville Fire Service has now applied this symbol to the rear of their fire engines and rescue vehicles.

As a railway safety educator and federally appointed police constable, I have always taken three simple words dear to heart. I use them in every single railway safety presentation and activity: Look, Listen and Live! Rail safety look listen liveI won’t stop spreading railway safety education and messaging, because I see the value and importance my efforts have held over the years in parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and now Ontario.

Cst. Richard Di Biase is the Community Services, School and Social Media Officer for the CN Police Service in Ontario. Follow him on Twitter @cnpoliceont