Why Do Cyclists Wear Rubber Boots?

Winter 2009.

When I’m riding eastbound on the south bank of the Willamette River Path, heading towards the Knickerbocker Bridge,  there’s a funny sign that sticks out of the river just past the railroad underpass. I use that sign as an informal way to track the height of the river. In the summer, you can see a lot of the pole below the yellow sign itself. Even when the river is running pretty high in the winter, you can usually make out at least the top of the sign. Well, we’ve been having rather a lot of rain this June. This Friday morning on the way to work, I rode under the railroad trestle and noticed something new:  my little sign was totally underwater.

And then I noticed that the path was underwater, as well. Here’s how it looked around 9:30 on Friday morning:


Water lapping at the South Bank river trail

There was even higher water level around 5 pm on the way home in the same spot, just west of the Knickerbocker bridge on the south side of the river.

"It's no problem," declared this fellow as he coasted through the inundated path.

Out of curiosity, I crossed over to the north side of the river path and rode along that stretch towards Alton Baker Park. Most of the trail was just fine, perhaps a puddle here or there, until I reached the cluster of picnic shelters. There, the path suddenly takes you right smack into the river itself.

Yeah, we really do recommend that you veer to the right.

An impressive stretch of  path to from the DeFazio bridge to the east has been consumed by the river. How did this affect those traveling by bike? Cyclists & pedestrians who normally would have just whooshed by each other were stopping to chitchat, discuss when the river last got this high, and take photos. The high spirits were likely fueled by a mixture of the novelty of the situation, and happiness at the fact the the sun had finally come out. In many cases, aqua-cyclists were proudly showing off their waterproof boots. The water around the duck pond area of Alton Baker was deep enough that the boots were a very good idea.

Normally, there's a little dry land between the duck pond and the river.

Landlubber: “How was it going through on your bike?”

Aqua-cyclist: “Kind of fun, actually.”

Listening to cyclists chatting, the novelty of the situation seems to be overriding the inconvenience so far.  One exchange I heard on Friday sums up the spirit of the unusual event:

Meanwhile, up in Corvallis, Willamette Park is flooding as well. Friends reported on Saturday that kids on BMX bikes were riding through the water so deep it went up to their necks.

One thing I can say for sure, is that the local mallards are very pleased about this whole situation.

Go, ducks.

More photos & videos from Friday in the slideshow below.

Seager’s Addition: Reader David Kline sent in the below picture on Thursday morning of a downed tree blocking the North Bank path just west of the Knickerbocker Bridge.  Possibly related to the flooding?

Photo Credit: David Kline

Author: Katura Reynolds


3 thoughts on “Why Do Cyclists Wear Rubber Boots?”

  1. At about 1:07 into this KEZI news footage, they have a nice clip of one of our local “Pedalers Express” bike couriers riding through the flood. Hard core!

    I can see why Search & Rescue is concerned though, especially if it really will take a couple of weeks for the river to settle back down.

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