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Many people get flats from tacks on new Westlake bikeway, could it be intentional?

I have received at least a dozen emails and notes on social media in the past two days from people who say they got flat tires from tacks on the new Westlake bikeway. Evan Bush at the Seattle Times called some area bike shops, who said they’ve been pulling a lot of these tacks from flat tires in recent days.

Seattle Police are aware of the issue, and SDOT staff were out today picking them up with magnetic rollers.

Photo courtesy of reader Chris

We have yet to receive any information confirming that the tacks were set intentionally by some awful asshole assaulting strangers completely at random, but both such intentional acts have occurred in Seattle in recent years (though it’s been a while).

In 2013, someone set tacks on the then-new Alaskan Way Trail. That one was almost certainly intentional since the tacks were all carefully set pointing up.

In 2011, tacks caused all kinds of problems on the I-90 Bridge Trail. That one sure seemed intentional, since it’s not clear how else they would get to a car-free part of the bridge.

In this case, the tacks are on a brand new bikeway that recently opened after years of debate and legal wrangling. I hope this was a mistake by some clumsy carpet installer. Because if it was intentional, that’s very disturbing.

A flat tire is annoying, but if someone has a blowout they could fall and get seriously hurt. Attacking people at random is a sign of a seriously disturbed person. If anyone has information, contact the police.

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40 responses to “Many people get flats from tacks on new Westlake bikeway, could it be intentional?”

  1. Sean Cryan

    I pulled one of these out of my wife’s front tire last night, and set a new tube.

    Should we be letting police know?

  2. I would be very surprised if this wasn’t done intentionally.

  3. bill

    Are any of those tacks in front of businesses with security cameras?

  4. Jeffrey J. Early

    This has also been happening on the trails in Big Finn Hill and St. Edwards State Park the last few weekends.

    Not sure if this link will work,

  5. meanie

    “We have yet to receive any information confirming that the tacks were set intentionally by some awful asshole assaulting strangers completely at random, but both such intentional acts have occurred in Seattle in recent years (though it’s been a while).”

    Those are blue upholstery tacks, they aren’t common at all, at least they aren’t going to be in a random general contractors truck ready to fall out.

    I would vote for intentional.

  6. Merlin Rainwater

    I think this underscores the importance of showing the businesses along Westlake that people on bikes are good patrons. Stop in and buy a yacht! Or at least a cup of coffee and a goodie, or have a beer. McCormick and Schmick’s has a cool happy hour from 4 to 6, and you can sit on their patio right by the water. There’s a little deli with giant cookies and good sandwiches. China Harbour did host the anti-bike organizers, but I bet they’d take our money (although I haven’t tried). If the business owners see benefit from the bike path, they’ll be more likely to keep an eye out for scoundrels dumping tacks on the trail.

    1. Gary

      I vote that you bring your flat tire into the coffee shop or bar, and repair it right there while enjoying a ‘cup o. This way the owner has a double incentive to stop with the tacks….

    2. Nautical Landing’s lawsuit certainly convinced me to take my megayacht business elsewhere.

      Now, off to make enough money to have “megayacht business”…

  7. Paul

    I got simultaneous flats in two of the three tires on my cargo bike this morning. I had to push my bike, with my four-year old in hand, several blocks down to Wrench on Dexter, which was closed, lock up the bike, and then walk with her the rest of the way to her day care and get myself to work (well over an hour late). Luckily, Buck at Wrench said he could fix my flats at the bike rack outside without me having to make another trip down there to unlock it and wheel it into the shop (thanks Buck!). But this is ridiculous. I doubt this will be the last time this happens. I do hope something can be done, though I don’t know what exactly that would be.

    1. bill

      Everyone who gets a flat should make a police report. The potential for bodily harm is real. The aggregate cost of property damage, and in Paul’s case lost wages, is real. If enough people complain the department might send a cop to nose around and ask questions; that could scare this miscreant away from repeating this malicious behavior.

      1. JD

        You can report property destruction online!

  8. Rob Pezely

    My wife got a flat on Westlake Cycle Track on Wednesday evening from one of these tacks.

  9. Clark in Vancouver

    This kind of thing is common shortly after a new bit of infrastructure goes in. Sometimes it’s broken glass or dog poo. Some busybodies hang out waiting for someone to bike by and then do something so that they’re inconvenienced by you so that they can yell at you. It dies down after awhile when they find something else to do with their time.
    I now avoid new infrastructure for a couple of weeks when it’s new. (After giving it a test ride first of course.)

  10. Gordon

    Apparently lots of clumsy upholstery carpenters bike around our trails… yeah that seems likely

  11. MIRider.


    Been done to us before. These tacks are sharp.

  12. Ballard Resident

    This happened to me on BGT near the locks last year. Didn’t think much of it because I made it home and found it later when the tube would no longer hold air. Soon afterwards I saw a post on Twitter via this website that mentioned someone else found these same type of tacks all over the trail. Bet those tacks are used because they blend so well into dark pavement. Were any found on driveways?

    Earlier this summer, while riding on a newly completed part of the Westlake cycle track, I rode over a nasty message scrawled across the path. It’s no longer there so DOT must have removed it.

    1. Jessi

      That was my tweet, almost exactly a year ago. Here’s the pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/4N6BFUYtGix9Ej6FA

  13. Richard

    Intentional for sure. Most likely a bike repair shop trying to drum up a little additional business.

    1. Ballard Resident

      Odd reply Richard. Do you own a yacht by any chance?

    2. RossB

      I think it is the guy who invented that magnetic roller that picks up the tacks. That guy is going to sell a lot of those things now, baby. I can just here him in his back room “Now everyone will here of my great invention! Bwah, ha, ha, ha!”.

      Seriously, though, this sucks and it obviously isn’t the first time this has happened — it is great that someone did invent the magnetic roller as it probably saves a lot of time in trying to clean up this dangerous mess.

    3. Jesse

      Richard. I’m a shop owner and to accuse bike shops of doing this is not a very well thought out argument. We don’t make a lot repairing/replacing a tube or 20 or whatever. We are all a culture of cyclists looking out for each other. Some of us just happen to own bike businesses. So please, before you jump to conclusions, think about what you’re saying.

  14. weaksauce

    Interestingly enough Rons Lake Union Upholstery is located at 1247 Westlake Ave N and the tack resembles an upholstery tack…

    See link for image of upholstery tack

  15. Laurel

    For me, the Westlake route is a shortcut to my normal route from Ballard to South Lake Union. I prefer the BGT and thus ride past Fremont and take the University Bridge in every morning. As a result I do patronize Louisa Café, 14 Carrot and the little French bakery who’s name escapes me. When I go Westlake it’s dark and late at night and there isn’t a single business still open. I don’t return on Eastlake and the stretch of trail between University District and Fremont because it doesn’t feel safe being alone on a bike in the dark where the trail is not visible from the road. Before the cycle track I didn’t go Westlake either because it seemed desolate but sabotage is a little more threatening to me than simply feeling isolated. I’ll just go back to riding Dexter home after dark. The cars and busses and people expect and, perhaps, appreciate that bike route and the traffic it reduces from their commute.

    1. Patrick Smith

      I used to live on Dexter, and trust me, bike lanes do not reduce traffic , but increase it (summer may be an exception but I certainly doubt it). I moved out when it became too dangerous for my kids due to bikers going downhill at 40mph and not stopping at red lights nor stop signs.

      1. kommish

        Not sure when you moved, but I lived on Dexter too, at Crockett, both before and after the lane structure change. I found that the traffic went down, except for mild slowdowns when I was behind a bus, and when a couple condo projects down closer to the 1100 building closed entire lanes of traffic so they would have somewhere to put their cranes. Those projects also made it nearly impossible for cyclists to go very fast due to having to go around the blockages and over trenches dug in the concrete. Also, I don’t think there is a stop sign or stoplight anywhere on Dexter between the Fremont bridge and Aloha. Maybe you’re talking about the slight downhill going the other direction between Denny and Mercer?

  16. Sean Cryan

    I got this survey today, and filled it out, including asking them to continue to report on issues like this vandalism.


    It will go in the record if you fill one in too.

  17. Patrick Smith

    Well it seems it’s not only Seattle bikers that are a-holes who think they area above the law

    1. jay

      My, aren’t you a clever one!

      I’m picturing you writing that on your phone while driving well in excess of the speed limit, (though I trust you do slow down a little before rolling past stop signs).
      Speaking of speed limits, Dory Monson (I imagine you are a big Dory fan) was also pretty clever with his claim that the proposed speed limit reduction is a “money grab”, as if it wouldn’t be a full time job, for the entire police force, to ticket the existing speeders.

    2. Nah, all us a-holes that think we’re above the law are cyclists. I’m the president of the local chapter of a-holes that think we’re above the law, and our clubhouse has no parking even though the zoning where we’re located requires lots of it.

  18. R

    There was also a report on reddit /r/Seattle/ this week of tacks on the BG t trail in Freelard .

  19. Red bicycle

    This isn’t the first time for this facility – I got one of those tasks in my front tire Scott 3 weeks ago.

  20. One of our meetup member got a tack today between South Lake Union Park and Marina Mart.

    Then on the way home, I ran into a guy who had a tack on Mercer between Dexter and Taylor.

  21. Thomas

    Got one Friday morning and again on Sunday evening. Same tacks as everyone else is getting.

  22. Ellen

    I got one this morning.

  23. Kyle

    Hmm, I had hoped it was over by now. I got two tacks on Wednesday and another on Thursday and shifted to biking on Dexter for the last two days.

    I tried filing a police report but they told me there was no kind of report that I could make. That didn’t really make sense to me, but the person on the phone checked with the supervisor and that’s the response that came back. They did say they could put in a request for increased police presence along Westlake.

    I’m also a bit disappointed in the Westlake Trail Project as I’ve emailed them about this twice with no response. It seems like something they could be putting out regular updates about. I’d like to know when it’s likely to be safe to ride on the WCT again.

  24. thatgirlkelly

    Hey All,
    The Seattle Police Department responded to my tweet about tacks on the Westlake Cycle Track and are collecting case numbers for folks who have gotten flats from the tacks. If you have been impacted, please file a report. There is an online form that is quick and easy.

  25. […] Seattle Bike Blog does report that recently someone threw tacks along the path, which of course is not a good thing. But it seems there is always someone trying to fight progress. […]

  26. […] one problem (besides the weather) was the threat of tacks on the Westlake Cycletrack. Our last ride, Critical Lass cycles through the seasons, left one rider with a flat from Westlake […]

  27. Flattie

    i got a flat from one of these tacks the early evening of dec 30th 2016 somewhere in the westlake trail-fremont bridge -burke gilman – to university bridge zone. i also submitted a police report online, per thatgirlkelly.

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