Explosion Of Boats On Chicago River Has Tour Operator Stressing Safety

CHICAGO (CBS) — With the growing popularity of kayaking and other boat rentals on the Chicago river, the water is getting more crowded, aand at least one tour operator said the need for safety education is that much more important.

“I hate to sound dramatic about it, but I’m truly afraid someone’s going to get killed,” said Michael Borgstrom, president of Wendella Boats, one of several sightseeing companies that operates on the river.

He said the river has gotten much busier in recent years.

“Everybody wants to get there, and see the beautiful buildings, and riverwalk,” he said.

Borgstrom said barges and tour boats that have used the river for decades must now compete with a growing number of companies renting kayaks, electric boats, and other smaller craft. He said many of them operate safely, but others take risks around larger boats.

“Towing a barge, they can’t just stop. It takes them like six bridges in order to stop. A boat gets in front of them, you know, that’s it,” he said.

Many people who rent boats don’t know the rules of the waterway, and while Borgstrom doesn’t want amateur boaters off the water, he wants to make sure they stay safe.

“Get people more aware of the navigation rules,” he said. “You need to move out of the way of other vessels that can’t stop, but unfortunately you get a lot of people, they aren’t boaters, taking boats out on the water.”

He said people in kayaks and other small boats should stay behind barges and large tour boats, because those vessels take much longer to stop, and could hit smaller vessels that make unexpected stops in their path.

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