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Tacks on trail wreak havoc on I-90 bike commuters

After seeing far too many people fixing flats near or on the I-90 Bridge last week, Gary Powell went back to the scene to see if he could find the source. After a little searching, he and some others found them: Tacks all over the trail on Mercer Island.

From Bike to Work Seattle:

I rode to work on Friday morning like I always do, and on my way across the Mercer Island I-90 trail, I noticed a lot of folks with flat tires. I didn’t think much of it, but I did slow down and confirm that the riders were “Ok” before riding on. After crossing the bridge I came to the I-90 tunnel and saw my friend and co-worker James, who was patching his tire. Two other cyclists stopped to help him out with the job. From one of the other riders I found out that he had counted 6 riders with flats from carpet tacks. James’s flat was also caused by a tack, that made 7 we knew about.

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On my way home, I rode with another buddy from work, Tim, and we saw three more cyclists stopped fixing flats. We stopped right after that and rubbed our tires hoping that we hadn’t picked up any tacks ourselves. We were lucky so far.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful, but Tim mentioned that he has had a lot of flats by tack in the last month, and had tried various ways to avoid them. He tried using Slime tubes, Kevlar tires, tire liners etc all to no avail. I resolved to take some time on Saturday and see if I could locate the source of these tacks and clean them up.

Saturday at the crack of noon I headed to the hardware store where I bought a magnet on a stick.

Read more…

The tacks were eventually located on the eastern highrise of the I-90 Bridge, where it enters Mercer Island.

Similar tack problems have been reported in Portland an Vancouver, WA in recent months. One Portland man is even offering a $500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the person responsible.

Tacks were also strewn along the route of this year’s Seattle to Portland Classic. One person was injured after losing control after getting a flat.

Have you experienced flats on the I-90 Trail recently?

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16 responses to “Tacks on trail wreak havoc on I-90 bike commuters”

  1. Gary

    A followup, I checked the garbage cans around the location where we found the tacks and no empty tack containers. (I had a dream that the culprit threw the container out there.)

    This morning on the ride to work I saw the Mercer Island Police out and about and stopped to talk to them. I told them about the tacks and they said they’d keep an eye out for more mischief. So if you find more tacks somewhere else please report it to the M.I. Police.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      The Mercer Island Police non-emergency line is 425-577-5656.

    2. Gary

      Oh and since I was at the hardware store this weekend for other stuff I checked out the tacks section. From the packages available, it looked to me we picked up about 1/2 a package worth of tacks. #6 2.0 oz package $1.79

  2. pqbuffington

    I also picked-up a flat last month on the east high-rise of the I-90 trail as mentioned in the article, but I could not identify the sharp, now it is officially “suspicious”.

    In fact, the carpet tack sabotage has happened before. If I remember correctly, I was pulling them out of my treads some four or five years ago. While I am not sure where my tire picked-up the tacks then, it seemed closer to the east-channel bridge. I am now always leery come around April first when riding Mercer Island; I suppose Halloween time should be added to the list.

    The east-side, this to include Mercer Island and the I-90 trail, is generally not a bad place to ride. I see trail-walkers that I have been saying “hello” to for years; pass in amazement the triple-wide and the double double-wide strollers (once thought apocryphal); avoid the never-ending dog-tethers; and have never received a traffic ticket although one verbal warning should be admitted.

    I am not sure the type of person(s) that does this. I would assume a teen-age prank, perhaps fueled by parental outrage at some perceived delay behind a cyclist or elder exasperation that any tax monies be spent on anything non-automobile when it comes to transportation funding. But tacks on the ground on the I-90 / Mercer Island trail is something that could hurt many…from scores of walked dogs, the youth that play on the trail when attending older siblings baseball, soccer, or lacrosse events, the foot of any barefoot runner (more and more these days) as well as potentially through any light soled shoe…and not to forget, the very possibility of causing a bicycle crash.

    What type of person indeed?

  3. Wow, I did not know people did stuff like this. Pretty Sad.

  4. M.J.

    Cascade made some calls, and here’s what we’ve found out.

    They need specifics on locations. Please email Jason Kintner, City of Mercer Island, Parks Superintendent, [email protected]. Email is best so they can forward to MIPD if necessary.

    M.J. (at Cascade)

    1. Gary


      1. Gary

        On last nights ride home, it looked like the Parks Dept, had come out and swept the trail clear in the location where the tacks used to be.

  5. john

    Similar but not related: I’ve been riding the Burke-Gilman trail detour on 35th Avenue. There’s been a lot of broken glass and other debris in the bike lane in both directions but especially North-bound — probably not malicious, but a fair amount of it directly in the bike lane, so who knows. I’ve suffered two flats in the past month in on this stretch. Sure would be great if a street sweeper could get out there on a regular basis to clean things up during the detour.

    1. Gary

      In this era of smaller budgets I’ve taken an enlightened self interest to trail maintenance, broken glass, black berry vines that are at head level and in the trail. So once every few months I go for a walk with a square faced shovel and a large push broom and clear the part of the I-90 trail that I ride on.

      Every time I do it, I wonder if it’s worth my time, and I don’t have much these days to devote to this sort of stuff. But then the next day I ride to work and I don’t have to swerve to avoid that pile of glass, or that blackberry vine I grin and ride on.

      Besides the only thing different in what I’m doing and what folks to who have adopted a road is that riders who pass me while I’m out working thank me. And I don’t have a sign “This trail maintained by… ”

      And I’ve fallen twice on the trail due to leaves/mud etc. So I have scars to remind me that even if no one else cares, I won’t be sitting there at the clinic swearing at myself for being to lazy to clean it up.

  6. John

    It would be nice to find the loser who spread the tacks and deal with him appropriately. On the general subject of the I-90 trail — the pavement (smoothness) on the bridges is pathetic. Especially the East Channel Bridge. This should be our marquee bike trail (i.e. the “I-5” of biking in Seattle/Bellevue) and unfortunately it is anything but. Especially going westbound on the ECB onto the island. You are going downhill and getting up some speed. The bikeway is relatively narrow and you are being rattled pretty good due to the poor surface. It was around 7:00 PM the other day when I rode across this section (with several oncoimg bikers right as the bridge transitions to the asphalt on grade) and it was a bit dicey. We spend all sorts of money putting paint on pavement you’d think we could scare-up some dough for light grind on the concrete bikeways to improve the ride (and safety).

  7. Mike

    I ride this area on weekend rides a fair amount and it is disappointing to hear that someone put tacks out. Thanks Gary for doing all the work to make my riding safer and less of a hassle. I appreciate it.

    If you read the whole post on Gary’s blog he makes a very good point about biker courtesy toward pedestrians as far as using a bell or calling out when passing especially on the bridge. That said, with all the noise from traffic you have to yell pretty loudly not to mention trying to get through to someone using ear buds. But still, it should be done.

    Thanks – Mike

  8. Paul

    I fell victim to this Oct 14. I saw a couple other people who had flats too.

    Thanks, Gary, for keeping things clean!

  9. david

    hi , i got interested in reading some of the stuff on this forum here , mostly because of the guy or person ( assuming its a guy ) who was laying tacks on the bike trail in mercer island . and then reading on to find that copy-cat serial tack layers seem to be a common interest for people who have a overzealous passionate dislike for people on bikes , interesting to me i guess , i dont know why but because , i guess because i’m not sure why people adopt this particular hatred for people on bikes and because i have seen these people on the road who hate me because i ride a bike , or maybe they hate my bike or maybe they hate someone else who rides a bike , i’m interested in knowing about the psychology and the idiocy of this particular disposition , … i will say in admittance that i tend towards being an angry person myself which is another story unrelated to anything for this forum and some people may see me as a some kind of a psycho-cyclist because i put insane energy and what some people may see as strange antics , i’ll be honest that i do not respect the laws of this country ( except for the constitution which i think got lost in some warehouse and then sold in an antique store to china for a few bucks ) and sometimes i way overplay my rebelliousness and push my luck or my good graces with a higher power regarding defying law enforcement and or physics . so , i have my own anger issues which are sometimes sort of based on rediculous stereotypes like maybe i may say that i hate all people in large loud pick-up trucks trucks because i feel that they are all fat power-tripping jerks who like to be jacked up so they can look down on people literally and figuratively and they often seen to like to stomp on the peddle to rumble their engines and intimidate or frighten people and they always seem to feel that they have the right of way , like at a four way stop and clearly got their after you did when youre in a honda accord or on a bike or sometime , they somehow feel entitled take the right away that isn’t theirs because they are bigger than you ( or their truck is anyway ) … so anyway not to diminish all these things being in my opinion based at least statistically ( not with scientific data but just from my observation and the resultant generalization i make therefrom ) but to say that i do not honestly believe that every single person in a truck is a big fat idiot , could be an old lady in a big truck going to bingo for all i know . sorry if i have gotten carried away rambling with my own example of one of my particular idiosyncratic peeves that i my spout off about just out of tupid anger but with the intent of entertaining others or whatever .. so ( i’m so sorry for being all drawn out on this ) i just want to know what is it about bicyclists that some people seem to be literally homicidal about ? … wtf is it ? is it the spandex ( i dont wear those but that’s not relevant ) , is it ….. hmm .. thinking … what is it ? i feel justified actually in hating people who hate people who ride bikes , i flip people off all the time and i understand that i have anger issues that i need to work on , .. let me explain though that my anger is kind of a natural response ( albeit maybe not the the most peaceful or effective method as related to my own self preservation or in resolving whatever the root cause is of the ” bike hating syndrome ” but i am the one on a 2 wheeled self powered vehicle and although i am on the large side ( maybe 240 or 250 lbs ) with my bike in comparison to a large heavy metal gas powered AUTOmobile , do these people feel like i might hurt their child in the back seat , or knock their groceries out of the car , or give them whiplash if i broadside them , or maybe i will give them a flat if they run me over and then they will have to pull over to fix their tire and then get rid of my body ? sorry , this is a ridiculous rhetorical question , honestly i do not feel that anyone sitting in their car or truck is genuinely afraid of being injured by a bicyclist , although i am sure it can and does occasionally happen ( no offense to those to whom at has ) … so , anyway . maybe some people will come up with some legitimate reasons why bicyclists are so ” hate-able ” i dont think i will be inclined to agree with them and i have decided at least in my own little mind that bike-hating is a ridiculous and pointless grudge to harbor and in my opinion may be in … i’ll just say it , in many cases based on jealousy of people who are able physically and have the nerve , courage and dexterity and skill that they dont have . and i’ve spent too much time on this but i just thought i’d chime in here , i ended up on here somehow while looking for a map of a bike path i would like to get familar with . need to go now . thanks .

  10. Zap

    Riding across the eastern I-90 bridge this afternoon with my 9 year old daughter, she got a blowout from a tack. Hopefully this one was left over from last year, and is not a harbinger of a new attack, but the tack unfortunately looked pretty new – no rust.

  11. Jim Simmons

    I hit a treble fish hook that had had the barbs cut off last Friday riding in the new bike lane at Broadway and Jefferson on First Hill. It stuck in my wheel for six or eight revolutions, then I stopped and easily extracted it by hand. It was a pretty nifty invention. It was cut down in such a fashion that any way it landed, there would be a piece of hardened steel pointing straight up. Fortunately, my tubeless tires are even niftier and I only lost about 30 psi before the hole sealed itself. Thanks Orange Seal! And thanks Mr or Mrs Treble Hook Hazard inventor! Without your invention, I wouldn’t have had the chance to pity you while consuming a refreshing beverage at my favorite local bike pub. While there, I thought of more ways to thwart the efficacy of your little three fingered salutes. I decided I would get all of my friends and relatives to vote for Hillary Clinton. I renewed my membership in the Cascade Bicycle Club. I renewed my winter cycling gym membership, challenged my coworkers to the Ride in the Rain event this coming November and came up with the name of the next bike I will build. The Loser. Everyone will think I named it after the Orange One, but if you read this (and I hope you do) two people will know the truth. Every day for the rest of this bike’s life, it will get lots of attention, and every person will hear the story of the inventor whose best effort was ended by 25 cents of latex.

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