Recognizing Constable Brad Bidulka for going the extra mile to promote rail safety

Reducing the number of deaths and injuries as a result of railway crossing and trespassing incidents is a team effort. Operation Lifesaver (OL) depends on our dedicated Rail Safety Ambassadors across the country to educate Canadians of all ages about the need stay safe around railway tracks—Ambassadors like Brad Bidulka.

As Chair of Operation Lifesaver’s Saskatchewan Provincial Committee, Constable Bidulka is a tireless promoter of rail safety. He has been with CP Police Service in Saskatchewan since 2014 and an OL Rail Safety Ambassador since 2017. Whether he’s knocking on doors to speak directly with community members, or hosting a mock collision in minus-30 Celsius weather, Constable Bidulka goes above and beyond to get the rail safety message across.

Last month, we recognized the contribution Constable Bidulka makes to rail safety by naming him the 2018 recipient of Operation Lifesaver’s prestigious Roger Cyr Award. The award is our way of recognizing the important work Rail Safety Ambassadors like Constable Bidulka do to help us save lives. Named after the founder of Operation Lifesaver Canada, it is given to an OL partner or volunteer who goes above and beyond in promoting railway safety.

We spoke with Constable Bidulka after he received the Roger Cyr Award to find out why he thinks it is critical to work together to spread the rail safety message.

What sorts of risks have you seen people take when it comes to tracks and trains?

In my job, I see trespassing that occurs by the public. I see shortcuts taken. I see a lot of drivers that are busy and rushed and distracted. In this day and age, there are so many distractions when you're driving a motor vehicle and/or walking near railway tracks that your senses are diminished. The awareness just isn't there and I see that on a daily basis—so they need education.

Have you seen these unsafe activities result in tragic consequences?

Yes, I've seen tragic consequences. Being a CP officer, I've dealt with several incidents where people were victims. For instance, some people choose to wear headphones while they're driving and that's cutting off one of your senses. One case comes to mind where there was a collision between a vehicle and a train outside Regina and the ultimate cause was distraction. In that case it was a young man that was injured. He survived but was very close to losing his life. He had earbuds in so he couldn't hear the train whistle. He was at a rail crossing without flashing lights, on a road he travels every day to go to and from home. The most tragic part of it was that his graduation suit was in the back seat. This young man was going to be graduating within weeks of this incident. That one really sticks in my mind.

Through my work I also deal with the men and women who operate and work on the rail tracks and some of them have been exposed to several incidents where there were fatalities or major injuries. And truly, those people are victims. They know that an incident is going to happen and they can’t do anything about it. The train can’t stop. They can’t jump off. They have to deal with the incident after the fact.

One of your jobs is to ticket people trespassing on railway property. When you give out tickets, do people understand the risk they are taking in trespassing?

I deal with trespassers on a regular basis and there are many different varieties. They need to get someplace fast and they are human beings and creatures of habit and they will take the shortest and most direct route. My job is to educate people so that I can prevent incidents— because one incident is one too many.

When you're doing outreach, is there one message you really try to get across to people?

Trains can come any time, and you should never be anywhere near tracks unless it's at a legal crossing. When I am doing presentations, I also ask the question: “Can you always hear a train?” and everyone responds “Yes, you can.” Well, in fact, trains are silent. Movements on track nowadays occur without any sound from the wheels. You can't hear them. When you see a train, you can’t estimate the time of arrival or speed—it’s an illusion. But we have tragic incidents because people are where they shouldn't be and they can't judge the train's speed.