Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Tacks on Vancouver Ave bike lane cause several flats

Posted by on September 16th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Tacks have strewn across the bike lane on
Vancouver Ave have caused several
flats this week.
(Photo: @seniortrio/Twitter)

Small and very sharp tacks have been showing up in the bike lane of N Vancouver Avenue for the past few days and they’ve claimed several victims.

I got the first report about them on Tuesday from reader Brian R. who said he was rolling on Vancouver at about 3:30 pm when three tacks pierced his front tire. “I was curious if any of your other readers had the same misfortune or it was just my bad luck?”

Then I heard from Metropolis Bike Shop owner Nathan Roll. Roll’s shop is on Williams, just one block away from Vancouver. Roll said he had two customers come into the shop with double flats caused by “large numbers of tacks in the Vancouver bike lane.” Roll said the tacks were in the road just south of Russell.

“The first time it happened [on Tuesday] one of my guys went out and picked up a handful of thumbtacks. Today, the customer went out and came back with a handful of tiny carpet tacks that are a dark grey color that I’m sure is almost invisible at 15-20 mph.”

Roll has called in a maintenance request to the city and he’s curious if anyone else has gotten flats.

And then just a few hours ago I got a message via Twitter from @senortrio who wrote, “Just got 2 flat tires from tacks in the Rose Quarter bus mall.” After I asked for more info, @senortrio added that he was headed down Vancouver before he noticed the tacks and that they got his friend’s tires too.

The tacks could have fallen off a truck and spilled into the bike lane. Or of course, someone could be playing a mean trick (it’s been known to happen in the past). Whatever’s going on, I’m curious if other readers have flatted in this location and I hope the City gets it swept up soon.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you β€” Jonathan

  • ben milstein September 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    bummer about the tacks. one minor correction to your article – @seniortrio is actually @seniorfrio (cold, not three). πŸ™‚

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  • Natalie September 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    The cynical person in me has already decided that this is an assclown situation. That said, I’m interested to see how this develops.

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  • Scott September 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    All the flats I have ever had must be because of something similar. It Is an ATTACK on us!! The special people!!! WE HAVE A SMALLER CARBON FOOTPRINT!!!! HOW CAN WE BE DENIED!!!!!

    We need to form a committee and discuss this at length so that we can bring an action plan to the Mayor within 3 months. I think we should install cameras and have people patrol all the bike lanes. We should also have crossing guards.

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    • dan September 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Those measures, while certainly satisfying our sense of self-importance, are really not necessary. All we need to do is sweep any junk in the bike lanes into the street — problem solved.

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      • middle of the road guy September 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

        Methinks you are missing the hyperbole.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Hey Scott,

      Thanks for the comment, but there’s absolutely nothing in the story or the comments above yours that should lead you to think that’s how people will react.

      There are tacks in the road. People got flats. I did a story (and waited to do so after getting several reports). No one is saying to call the national guard or the bike safety patrol. Please calm down.

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      • NW Biker September 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm

        Why? Groundless hysteria is so much fun!

        All joking aside, I wondered whether it was deliberate as well. Kinda sad, really.

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      • Scott September 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm

        It was sarcastic, but I think that it is great someone thought it was serious. It speaks to what the normal tone of oppressed minority is on the comments here. I also like that “trollish” is now a word. Tacks seem like a juvenile joke and since we don’t have to bunny hop 2 ft deep potholes, epic amounts of broken glass, long forgotten construction signage, and derelicts passed out in traffic in this city I think we can handle some high school prankery.

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      • Dude September 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm

        Why are you leaving this comment up? This is obvious trolling. Jonathan, here’s just another example of how you let anti-bike people post inflammatory statements on your blog and sensor pro-bike comments of the same ilk. This is the problem with your blog and its lack of fair commenting policy.

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        • Kevin September 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

          Oh jeeze, grow up.

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        • middle of the road guy September 19, 2011 at 11:39 am


          you are only proving the example of cyclists thinking they are the “special people”

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      • are September 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm

        wondering how “scott” feels about traffic reporters on the radio warning motorists of road hazards or even just backups.

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    • Natalie September 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      I took Scott’s comment as being sarcastic and kind of troll-ish.

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      • Natalie September 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

        Wait… just realized how obvious that was to everyone else. Ignore comment.

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  • Andrew Seger September 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Eh they’ve been doing a ton of construction on Vancouver in that area related to the Hospital expansion (I assume, at least). I’m more inclined to think it’s just debris from not cleaning up properly. Fwiw the construction people have been quite helpful keeping a bike lane open.

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  • Mike Quigley September 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I notice that a crop of goatheads (aka puncture vine) is getting a foothold out along the Springwater. Their needle-sharp seedlets will penetrate shoe leather, tire liners, pet paws, etc. On the other hand, tea made out of their leaves is purported to enhance sex drive!. They’re making their way into the Willamette Valley from points East. Google puncture vine for more info.

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    • matheas michaels September 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      Not goatheads! Anything but those! My memories of goatheads are anything but fond.

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    • A.K. September 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      Where at, exactly? An invasive species like that is perfect for a small community group to go after during clean-up efforts.

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      • middle of the road guy September 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

        Aren’t hipsters an invasive species also?

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  • XB September 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    can some clever cyclists hang one of those rake-magnets (like construction works use to pick up nails) in front of their bike about an inch off the ground? magic!

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    • Marcus Griffith September 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      That is a winning idea. Sound the Engineer Horn.

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  • Michae F September 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    what is the policy on sweeping the streets? N Willamette has had dead animals and glass shards for weeks near UP.

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    • Scott September 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      The streets were getting swept regularly on all bike lanes. I wonder is that stopped because cyclists complained about getting wet from the sweep truck….

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    • Randall S. September 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      In my experience, the policy is “sweep debris from the car lane into the bike lane.”

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    • q`Tzal September 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      I thought that the policy was that the roads are “self cleaning” because the profile is crown sloped.
      This is thought, amongst road engineers, to obviate the need to clean road surfaces by action of automotive tires pushing debris off the travel lane.

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  • metropoliscycles September 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    We just had another bike come in with tacks in both tires. They are the same tacks we have seen before. The victim had recently passed through the Rose Quarter.

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    • metropoliscycles September 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      Okay, we just had our 2nd one today with the tiny grey tacks. Sounds like they picked it up near the rose quarter.

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  • Stephen Fortunato September 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Folks, you may want to look up “irony” and “sarcasm” in the dictionary. Scott’s post is a play on the incendiary “war on cars” language that is all too common in letters to the editor, talk radio programs and op-ed pieces. I laughed out loud when Scott went into an immediate panic attack, just like people who freak out because they believe building a bike lane will interfere with motorized traffic. Of course, the tacks on Vancouver Ave. are a valid concern because vandals have sabotaged bike lanes before and even the Seattle to Portland ride.

    If you are interested in an in-depth analysis that debunks all the martial language thrown at cyclists (i.e. “war on cars”, “cyclists law-breakers who blast through red-lights”), I highly recommend this recent article in Seattle’s Stranger – http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/okay-fine-its-war/Content?oid=9937449

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    • Stephen Fortunato September 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      This post was meant as a reply to Scott September 16, 2011 at 2:16

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    • Otto September 17, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Interesting column… But it’s not just car on peds/bike casualities, but car on car too. It doesn’t matter what a persons political views are because the road is a high risk place for everyone when cars are involved. This makes the “war on bikes” rhetoric all the more absurd. That said, nobody is going to tell me that my life is absolutely better without an automobile. Some balance is needed.

      People need to understand that the “bicycle community” is much bigger than some people think. It’s anyone who has ever rode a bike, owned a bike, or knows/is related to someone who owns a bike regardless of how often or where they ride.

      The “bike community” includes everyone from the everyday bike commuter to the guy who only rides his comfort bike a few times each summer. It’s the kids just riding around their neighborhood block and a woman touring the countryside. Many of these folks also own cars, walk, and use transit on occasion and we all have an interest in safe transportation. The critical mass already exists for us. We just need organizing, peaceful exchange, and productive discussion. We do not need militant attitudes on either side.

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  • beelnite September 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    If someone put metal spikes in the roadway to give passing automobiles flat tires what would happen then? To me this is like dropping a rock off an overpass over a busy freeway. Reckless endagerment, manslaughter, even murder if someone get’s killed…. I don’t think this is “mischief” or “vandalism”… but that’s just my POV. Maybe I ride too fast making a blowout a pretty big deal.

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    • Scott September 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      Homemade tire poppers are used regularly on logging roads and routes used in off and on road races.

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    • was carless September 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      I hear this happens all the time in NYC.

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  • Ted Buehler September 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    When you find tacks or other debris in the bike lane, email safe@portlandoregon.gov and they’ll come sweep it pretty quick.

    Hopefully this is a one-time deal.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Rol September 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Gonna go ahead and assume right off the bat that these were placed deliberately as some sort of impotent gesture. I only wish the person would wait nearby to savor the outcome like a good prankster. They’d discover quickly that the whole thing was very boring and unsatisfying. But maybe I’m wrong, maybe somebody gets a huge charge out of watching me calmly dismount and go through my “fixing a flat” routine before getting underway again.

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    • Hugh Johnson September 18, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Considering all the anger over the gentrification of N.Portland, I’m not surprised this is happening.

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  • Jason September 16, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    It’s like the Historic Columbia Highway – tacks on the shoulder / bike lane lead to bikes in the roadway.

    Keep the rubber side down n’ keep grinning

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    • alice's adventures September 17, 2011 at 12:53 am

      smiles & peace signs. my tire is flat with no visible tacks, but i have been all over vancouver bikeway this week.

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  • Racer X September 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Yep – its a short sighted city permitting issue to zone a stainless steel tack producing company on a major bikeway like Vancouver. (A poor attempt at humor)

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  • Dan O September 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Sabotage is a very distinct possibility, and it’s not cool.

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  • pdxpaul September 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    That general vicinity is getting dicier due to the volume of traffic – foot, two wheeled, wheelchair, car, bus, etc. I apologize if it was the taxi driver I cussed out for almost running me over the other morning.

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  • Randall S. September 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    It’s probably that same tack-shipping truck that leaks tacks on the STP route every year.

    Also, why are all the major tack-shipping trucks routes co-located along bike pathways? You’d think someone would do something about that.

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  • Marcus Griffith September 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    See First Amendment with a focus on case law surrounding the rights and obligations of a website hosting public comments.

    Personally, I think BiP has a pretty good track record at allowing a diverse range of opinions be expressed.

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  • Dan O September 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Well, the original sarcastic rant wasn’t so bad, but he came back with the underlying notion, “Tacks seem like a juvenile joke… ”

    Uh-uh – no joke – not funny – seriously malicious – ~arbitrary victimization – no control of consequences – very , very bad.

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    • Scott September 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      Toughen up. The juvenile joke when I was in Philly was to smack cyclists/messengers off their bikes with a 2×4 and run. We have it so easy out here. Learn how to fix a flat and this problem is solved.

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  • jim September 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I found 2 nails in my car tire yesterday. I’m not going to say that some mean cyclist threw nails out in the street. It could have been many things that left tacks in the road, It could have spilled out of a garbage can on garbage day (on our street there is a trail of spilled garbage behind the garbage man), they could have spilled out the back of a truck hauling scrap……
    I think it is rather paranoid to think someone is that mean to target the cyclists, thats my opinion

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  • Fix On Your Bike September 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

    What a joke…

    Oh jeeze, grow up.
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  • Ted Buehler September 17, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I rode down N Vancouver Ave at 4pm yesterday. I rode slow and looked carefully for tacks all the way from Cook to Page. I had my iPhone camera ready to take a photo and send it to safe@portlandoregon.gov if I saw any.

    But the way was clear of tacks.

    Lots of other odd bits of debris, but I guess that’s normal…

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler September 17, 2011 at 11:44 am

      & of course I would have picked up any tacks I saw, too. Or at least brushed them into the gutter…

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  • Mike Fish September 18, 2011 at 1:39 am

    I also suspect foul play – I’m awaiting the aforementioned magnetic sweeper.

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  • Mark P September 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    One of these tacks found its way into my tire on Friday afternoon:(

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  • mark kenseth September 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    KATU had video of it on air last night, but all I could find was this:
    *Do not waste your time reading the comment section.

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  • beth h September 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

    “The ‘bike community’ includes everyone from the everyday bike commuter to the guy who only rides his comfort bike a few times each summer.”

    Does this include folks who either don’t know they
    re part of said “community”, and/or who don’t want to be? There’s often way too much lumping together of identities at this blog.

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  • SARA September 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    My rear tire caught a tack on Vancouver Ave the morning of September 16. My tube was irreparable and this incident made me half an hour late to work.

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  • Miles September 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I just fell victim to these this afternoon on Williams!

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  • joeb September 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I flatted on the way home tonight. I must have picked up the tack right after Weidler.

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  • Noelle September 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Husband was “at-tacked” on the pm commute. Flatted on Williams by the restaurants. Saw 2 others with flats (dunno if tack related) while hoofing it home.

    Dear tack person: property damage is an unacceptable way to express yourself. It costs real actual people time, money, and puts their safety at risk. Nor should anyone’s clients, students, patients, or coworkers be inconvenienced because you think we should be driving. I don’t slash SUV tires…

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  • yard September 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    just got a flat last night on my way north probably on williams between the rose quarter and tillamook.


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  • Champs September 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Since this article was posted, I immediately forgot about it and have had no flats during several trips up and down Williams/Vancouver.

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  • Lord of The Crab People September 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Flats? What are flats? I have not had a flat in 4 years since I started using Stans. Tubes are dead folks.

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