Don’t let a childhood pastime end in death
Most kids love to ride their bikes. So you make sure that they have one that’s the right size. You check the brakes to make sure they work and pump up the tires. You make sure that your kids wear a helmet that fits properly. You want them to be safe on their bikes, but all of these safety steps become irrelevant if your child rides into the path of a train.
May is International Bike Safety Month. When you teach your kids the rules of the road, be sure to include how to stay safe when they’re riding near or across train tracks. If you live near tracks that your kids might cross when playing or when going to school, show them where the designated crossing is and teach them how to cross safely.
Here are some rail-safety tips you can share with your kids to help keep them safe:
- Be alert. It can be difficult for anyone to judge the speed and distance of a train. It’s particularly hard for kids under the age of 10. Developmentally, they just aren’t aware enough. Remind your kids to always be alert near train tracks and to never cross when a train is coming no matter how safe it might seem.
- Walk across the tracks. Crossing rail tracks on a bike can be tricky, especially if the tracks cross the road at an angle. To cross safely, kids should dismount and walk their bikes across the tracks. They should steer across the tracks at a right angle to prevent the front wheel from getting caught in the tracks.
- Be extra careful when rails are wet. Wet rails can be just as slick as ice to a bicycle tire.
- Use only designated railroad crossings. It’s the only safe and legal place to cross the tracks.
- Remove earphones at all rail crossings. Music can prevent you from hearing an approaching train, a deadly mistake.
- Watch out for the second train. Don’t proceed after a train passes until you can see clearly in both directions.
- If you see a train coming, if there are flashing lights or if the gate is lowering, stop! Don’t proceed until the gates go completely up and the lights go off. It is illegal to go around lowered gates, whether on a bike, on foot or in a vehicle.
- You can find more rail safety tips in our Public-Rail Safety Guide (PDF) and Tips for Cyclists (PDF) sheet.
Just telling your kids how to be safe around train tracks isn’t enough. You also need to model rail-safe behaviour. When you are bike riding with your kids near or across the tracks, make sure you follow these tips, too. They’re watching you. What you do matters as much as what you say. Make sure all of you come home safe.