Play it safe: stay off the tracks

June is Recreation and Parks (JPRM) month in Ontario. After a long winter and unpredictable spring, June is the perfect time to get outside and get active. JPRM promotes physical activity, healthy eating and safe play. Unfortunately, for many people both in Ontario and across Canada the idea of safe play doesn’t include staying off of railway tracks.

There are lots of fun ways to enjoy the outdoors: go for a bike ride, take a hike, play a game, go fishing or take some snapshots of the world around you. But if you choose to do those activities on rail property, you’re not playing safe.


Here are just a few of the things that can go wrong if you decide to play on the tracks:

  • You don’t hear the train. They may be big, but trains are surprisingly quiet. If you’re not paying attention you may not even hear it coming until it’s too late. As for that old trick you’ve seen in the movies of putting your ear to the rail to listen for a train? It doesn’t work. Pull that trick and it's likely the train will be the last sound you ever hear.
  • Your bike tire or foot gets caught in the tracks. A train can’t stop quickly and it can’t swerve. Imagine being directly in the path of a train with nowhere to go and knowing that it’s going to hit you. Don’t take the risk.
  • You see the train and you still get hit. You might see a train coming and move out of the way in time, or so you think. Trains extend almost a meter beyond the tracks on both sides. In some cases, like on a railway trestle, there is only enough clearance for the train to pass. If you’re in its path, even if you’re not directly on the tracks, you’ll lose.

For rail-safety tips for outdoor enthusiasts, check out these Operation Lifesaver brochures (all PDFs): ATV operators, cyclists and rail fans and photographers.  

This summer, play it safe. Have fun in the playground, on sports fields and along designated trails. Stay off the tracks and stay alive.