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Tacks on Hawthorne Bridge cause multiple flats

Posted by on January 7th, 2015 at 9:21 am


(Photo: Reddit user scrodd)

Someone apparently scattered thumbtacks across the paths of the Hawthorne Bridge crossing early Tuesday evening. Our latest report of trouble came in at 8:20 this morning.

We heard from one source who said they stopped and picked up more than 40 tacks on their way home last night.

This sort of seemingly deliberate attack is especially hard to understand because it has some potential to put people in real physical danger.

This is maybe the appropriate place to disclose that I was a victim myself at about 7 p.m. last night (eastbound), and that this morning’s report came from my (eastbound) girlfriend, who wasn’t protected by the fact that I’d warned her about the possibility. There’s also a thread on Reddit today in which two other people say they were hit while headed westbound.


We’ve written about tack attacks in the past, on North Vancouver and Williams and in the Columbia Gorge, and there have also been incidents we haven’t covered.

In the Reddit thread, one person reports having “hit a few when someone loaded the routes to the meetup park for the World Naked Bike Ride.”

Bizarre attacks like this are more than just an serious annoyance and a slight danger to folks affected by it. They’re also sort of the inverse of a big fun event like the Bridge Pedal or the naked ride, which give thousands of casual bike users a reason to get their tires pumped and their brakes checked, ready to ride. For someone on the edge between biking and not biking, a flat tire can put someone off the road for days or weeks.

Do you have any more information about how or when this might have happened?

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

105 thoughts on “Tacks on Hawthorne Bridge cause multiple flats”

  1. Avatar 9watts says:


    Interesting to (try to) imagine the mindset of the person(s) doing this:
    Those people are having too much fun. I’m going to show them!

  2. Avatar J_R says:

    Sounds like terrorism against the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Are there tapes from security cameras on the bridge that could be reviewed?

    1. This, I say this every time I see something about debris that would have to be deliberately placed in bicycle infrastructure or that would only affect bicycles placed in other public rights of way. Thumbtacks fall into the latter category, because a car running over a thumbtack is going to have something that makes a clicking noise once a revolution as the tack hits the pavement of the tack isn’t just folded up harmlessly. A bicycle hitting a thumbtack is highly likely to get a flat or a blowout with the blowout being potentially fatal if the rider loses control and falls in front of a motor vehicle.

      This should totally be treated as a terror attack.

  3. Avatar Mike Quiglery says:

    Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires will stop a tack (and goathead) long enough for you to stop and pick it out.

    1. Avatar Cheif says:

      They’re also extremely expensive and not a cost that should be required just because some criminal coward wants to attack people anonymously.

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        They’re not that much more (if at all) expensive than Continental Gatorskins. And they last a REALLY long time.

        But your point is fair.

      2. Avatar Huey Lewis says:

        Perhaps but you really should be riding decent tires if you don’t want flats. We get flat fixes here all the time and I suggest better tires when someone is riding tires that offer no puncture protection and I’m always amazed at all the “meh, maybe later” type responses we get. Ok! Have fun!

        1. Avatar Cheif says:

          Smugness and assumptions from you.. I have a pair of marathon pluses on a bike I ride maybe twice a year. They’re bulletproof if a bit rigid, not a very smooth riding tire. I find the standard marathons to be a little more forgiving in the ride quality but still amazing in their puncture protection, I have them on two bikes. My daily ride has compass barlow pass 38’s with no puncture protection and I find they flat maybe every thousand miles or so, but that’s a small tradeoff for the significant improvement of ride quality. I could go on about “riding decent tires”, regardless, marathon pluses are $45 apiece on amazon right now and a bit more than that at a retail store. This is more than a lot of people want to spend on a set of tires and they shouldn’t be forced into the choice by some piece of garbage throwing tacks on the path.

          1. Avatar davemess says:

            To each his own, but ride quality is pretty low on my list of desires out of a tire on my commuter bike.

            1. Avatar davemess says:

              I should add that lack of flats is by far number one.

          2. Avatar Huey Lewis says:

            I think our wires are getting crossed somewhere. I’m absolutely not trying to be smug. I absolutely am trying to get people to enjoy cycling as much as possible. If suggesting some decent tires to avoid flats (from tacks or glass or sharp bits of whatever) makes me smug to you then I don’t know. Flats suck and there is a great way to try to help minimize them; decent tires!

            Yeah, Compass tires are awesome. I have some Grand Bois Hetre’s on a super smug and arrogant bike. It’s soooo smug. It was featured on a trashy rando rag cover a couple issues ago.

        2. Avatar Mike says:

          How about ride quality? You sacrifice ALOT when punture resistance increases so it is a balance act but I guess you would know that and pass that information to your customers without any judgement.

          1. Avatar Huey Lewis says:

            If we’re just talking commuter tires, which is sorta where my head was at with my upstream comment, I’m not thinking much about ride quality. I don’t know how much most folks think about that. Know what I mean? I do think it’s reasonable to expect to have some level of puncture resistance without sacrificing too much ride comfort.

            Also, comfort wise, ride the biggest tires your frame/fork will take.

            1. Avatar El Biciclero says:

              Some people have a really long commute…

              1. Avatar Huey Lewis says:

                True statement.

                Some people ride farther than far commutes.

          2. Avatar lyle w. says:

            Not to sound like a corporate shill, but some of the top of the line ‘racing’ clinchers work exceptionally well for commuting, and also have handling and smoothness that would almost be on par with a racing tubular.

            I have some Continental GP4000s2s right now that have flatted once in the last six months I’ve had them… and I ride in rain, go on training rides for three hours, ride back and forth to work, etc.

            Tires are absolutely, positively the best dollar for dollar investment you can make right away to have a better experience on your bike… and especially for beginners. How can you calculate all the times you get flats, have to stand somewhere in the rain, tired, trying to change a tube (or waiting for a bus), etc? How much would you pay each time you flat on your poor tires and say to yourself, ‘how much would i pay right now to have this just not be happening?’ Times, what? 15-20? How many flats do people riding poor tires flat a year? More?

        3. Avatar lyle w. says:

          You should have a cheap stopwatch at shops, and then when people come in with this response, have them take it and say, ‘Next time you get a flat, start this, and then turn it off when you’re rolling out of the shop/done fixing it at home/done waiting for us to fix it for you. And then start it again the next time it happens. And then after a few months, add it all up, and tell me spending $40 extra for a set of top-of-the-line tires isn’t worth it.’

    2. Avatar Psyfalcon says:

      If someone does not know how to change a tube, that is the tire I recommend. They are difficult to mount or even change the tube though. Make sure the rim tape is in good shape, you won’t flat due to tacks, but I never want to change on of those on the road.

      1. Avatar rainbike says:

        I really suck at this. Mounting new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires or even changing tubes under existing tires always results in bloody knuckles. Good thing I don’t have to do it very often. Love those tires – most of the time.

        1. Avatar gutterbunnybikes says:

          Try lubing the edge of the the tires or the edge of the rim before install. I prefer dish soap makes installing tight tires (like the Marathons) a thousand times easier.

          Just make sure to wash the soap off before you ride, it can effect your braking a little.

          1. Avatar rainbike says:

            Awesome suggestion! Thanks!

      2. Avatar davemess says:

        Good thing they don’t flat very often!

      3. Avatar Alex says:

        That is always a combo between tire tolerance and rim tolerance. I haven’t had an issue with them at all on any of my wheels. YMMV

        1. Avatar Psyfalcon says:

          I’ve mounted the same tires on 3 bikes. There is some difference, and some stretching, I’m sure, but the first time they went on my mountain bike was a huge pain.

          I don’t know if its the sidewalls, or if the 26 inch ones are just a mm or two smaller, but they are harder to get on (or off) all the rims than the tires they replaced.

          1. Avatar Pea Shooter says:

            you have to keep the bead that you have already inserted smooshed up in the well of the rim (up against the rim tape) instead of on the rail of the rim. this will give you the slack you need for that last cm of bead.

    3. Avatar was carless says:

      Yeah, i have a set of Schwalbe tires and I’ve only had two flats in seven years of daily riding. I’ve also ridden ‘Reach the Beach’ four times with them. They really last a long time.

  4. Avatar Aaron says:


    Does anyone know if my “Double Shielding puncture protection” tires would protect me against this?

  5. Avatar Chris I says:

    Went through at 5:30 and didn’t get a flat. This sucks.

  6. Avatar Dave says:

    I saw exactly who did it. It was some homeless (looking) crust-punk kids. I rode past them last night and as I passed, one said, “wanna buy some thumbtacks?” I didn’t really think anything of it, but it was on the eastbound side of the bridge, around 5:30 PM.

    1. Avatar Lester Burnham says:

      Retaliation against cleaning up the homeless camp bike chop shops?

    2. Avatar Mark Allyn says:

      Do you remember enough about them to report them to the police?

      1. Avatar Dave says:

        Not really – although I would be happy to give a description of what I remember.

    3. Avatar soren says:

      what does a “homeless (looking)” person look like?

      1. Avatar pabstslut says:

        Google “crust punk” and you’ll find out.

        1. Avatar Tim says:

          Learn something every day – not that I really wanted to know.

      2. Avatar Dave says:

        You don’t know what a “homeless (looking)” person looks like?

        1. Avatar Alan 1.0 says:

          Does it look like this?

          Or this?

          Or any of the other 100,000,000 homeless people estimated in that article?

          FWIW, I think “crust punk” is a fair description because it’s a distinct and recognizable style of specific individuals, but I have no way to know where they live.

          1. Avatar Dave says:

            I can’t believe I got the PC police after me for describing someone as “homeless (looking)”. You guys are a parody of yourselves; absolutely hilarious.

            1. Avatar Alan 1.0 says:

              “Homeless (looking)” does absolutely nothing to describe or identify the delinquents. “Crust punks” does, as might tattered, dirty, smelly, disheveled or loads of other adjectives.

              1. Avatar Dave says:

                It was you who took what I had said out of the original context in the first place, genius. What I said was “homeless (looking) crust-punk kids”. Besides, I wasn’t trying to describe or identify anyone for anything other than simply sharing what happened to me in relation to the original post.

              2. Avatar Alan 1.0 says:

                Not sure how much of this blog you’ve been reading, Dave, but “homeless” has been slung around quite a bit lately to mean a variety of different things, mostly bad and often inaccurate. There are also a number of people here who work with or for homeless people, or who otherwise advocate for or care about people who end up homeless, and it’s hurtful and irrational to conflate people who aren’t doing wrong with those who are simply because of that economic inequity.

                You might note that I accept your description of “crust punks” as being informative and meaningful, and whatever reason you provided it for, thanks, I appreciate that bit of info.

              3. Avatar 9watts says:

                Nicely put, Alan 1.0. Thank you.

              4. Avatar was carless says:

                Fine. How about “Springwater non-recreational camper” (SNRC?

              5. Avatar lyle w. says:

                ‘Four seasons esplanade tourist’

            2. Avatar Huey Lewis says:


        2. Avatar soren says:

          But men who post on bike portland are really easy to pick out — and, honestly, they all look the same to me. How about a trade? If you explain how I can detect a “homeless” person, I will explain how to recognize males who post on bike portland.

          1. Avatar jeff says:

            really? what do I look like?

          2. Avatar Huey Lewis says:


      3. Avatar Chris I says:

        Give me a freaking break…

        1. Avatar soren says:

          There are ~2.5 million homeless children in the USA according to some estimates. I think they deserve a break more than me or you.

          1. Avatar Chris I says:


    4. Avatar kohr harlan says:

      dave would you care to share your experience with us for a news story we’re doing on this tonight? i’ll check in with bike Portland too. call me if you’re interested: kohr Harlan channel six reporter: 971 563-3765. not to necessarily bash the homeless kids you saw dropping the tacks, but to alert people to this potential danger??

  7. Avatar Mark Allyn says:

    Perhaps like with what happened on Williams, should I offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who did this?

    1. Did that ever result in an arrest and conviction?

      1. Avatar Mark Allyn says:

        Nothing happened, but also no more tacks on Williams. It did spawn some wierd discussion over on the O’s blog.

  8. Avatar carlos says:

    I too had a puncture with a suspiciously similar tack last night. Around 6:30pm just before transitioning from the on street bike lane to the raised walk/bike path westbound on the Hawthorne Bridge. It was a fairly new tire with a fully inflated tube. In my experience no tire prevents a tack like from causing a flat.

    1. Avatar kohr harlan says:

      How about it carlos. could we talk with you about tacks and bike tires. a lot of people bike and walk the bridge. if you’re interested call kohr Harlan reporter at channel 6. 971 563-3765. please and thanks.

  9. Avatar Todd Hudson says:

    Are any others wary when crossing the Hawthorne Bridge in general? There’s little to protect from a fall (off a foot-plus high curb) onto the grating and oncoming traffic. All it takes is an unanticipated movement by someone walking and a potentially bad crash could happen.

    1. Avatar TonyJ says:

      Usually not, but I did have a very scruffy looking dude lunge at me once, right on the westbound portion that goes around the bridge pillar. It was very scary.

      1. Avatar Psyfalcon says:

        If anyone really tries to make contact, turn into them, I’d rather level them then end up under car.

        Of course, that is yet another reason some people ride too fast of the bridge or Springwater. Fear of the pedestrians, the faster you pass the less time they have to do something. To me, a faster crash also has the benefit of disorienting a would be attacker.

    2. Avatar anon says:

      I am wary–but the folks I worry most about are impatient riders passing me on the right with no warning. I swear one of these days I’m going to be startled enough to fall into the roadway.

  10. Avatar Champs says:

    Speaking for myself and a companion, neither of us has flats or embedded tacks to report after riding there at ~11:30pm last night.

  11. Avatar Granpa says:

    On SE 28th south of Powell it is not uncommon to see areas of broken glass in the bike lane. It gets washed down or swept away, and someone puts new broken glass down. It is a drag, but at least it is easier to spot and avoid than a tack.

  12. kiel johnson kiel johnson says:

    ha! i had a feeling!

  13. Avatar Pea Shooter says:

    pushcart war… we are the trucks.

    1. Avatar Woof says:

      That’s what I was thinking. As someone who used to walk across that bridge regularly, I was always appalled at how many bicyclists would bump against me hard at high speeds. It would happen several times each week and none would ever even apologize.

      I’m not defending the practice of throwing tacks on the bike lane, but I can see how someone might get fed up enough to do something stupid like that.

      1. Avatar dan says:

        That’s unacceptable. A slight nudge to the handlebars as they bump you would probably be very educational for those riders.

  14. Avatar invisiblebikes says:

    Easy prevention is buy slime tubes or tubes with removable cores and pump in 4 oz of Stans Sealant and you’ll go the whole winter with tack’s, Glass, nails and goatheads in your tires and never even notice!

  15. Avatar PeeJay says:

    No tacks for me, although I’ve done morning westbound/evening eastbound everyday.

    I have had some scary incidents on the deck, though. About a year ago I witnessed a man on a bike get pushed by an obviously agitated person. He was able to keep his balance and not fall into the car lane, and speed off, but I stopped and warned others on bikes to approach with great caution. We waited until the man settled down and rode past in close formation. The guy who got pushed said he didn’t do anything to provoke anyone.

    The Hawthorne Bridge is an amazing and essential part of our network, but if I were to build it today, I would not mix bike and foot traffic. Different speeds—and directions—lead to conflicts. Foot and bike traffic shouldn’t mix any more than bike and car traffic.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      I’ve also has several scary incidents — typically later at night. I’m not normally a fan of bidirectional facilities but I think bike and foot traffic should use separate sides of the bridge. I think the bike lane on madison is a very sub-par facility so removing it and adding a bidirectional bike lane on lower hawthorne would be a significant improvement.

    2. Avatar davemess says:

      Cant’ wait for the new MAX bridge!

      1. Avatar Adam H. says:

        Where yet again, bike and foot traffic will share the same space…

        1. Avatar davemess says:

          but only half as much!

    3. Avatar Wondering says:

      Or hikers and mountain bikers.

      1. Avatar Brian says:

        or dogs and children.

        1. Avatar Lester Burnham says:

          Or peanut butter and ladies.

  16. Avatar kohr harlan says:

    actually anyone who ran through the tacks or those of you who use the bridge regularly — I’d love to hear from you for news tonight. this tack stuff has gone on before on north Williams — its become an issue — if you can help me by returning a call — we’ll do a story on it for tonight’s news. call me if you’re interested: kohr Harlan channel 6 reporter: 971 563-3765. thanks.

    1. Avatar Bill Walters says:

      Kohr, can you tell us something about the angle or slant the editors have in mind for such a story? That might help folks make an informed decision about participating. (Though I guess by now it’s a little late in the day.)

    2. Avatar rainbike says:

      I saw your segment last night on the news. I appreciated how you started out by noting that conflicts between motorists and cyclists were down. True or not, maybe if we say that out loud enough, often enough, people’s behavior will conform to the perceived norm.

      1. Avatar Bill Walters says:

        On the other hand: There was no evidence for assuming that the tacks were part of such a conflict — so including that assumption in the story, even only as a straw man to knock down, amounts to just a more subtle kind of flame-baiting.

  17. This is probably just stoned kids messing about. I wouldn’t take it too personally.

    Marathon Plus tires are the dogs whatsits when it come to puncture protection.

    1. Avatar Lester Burnham says:

      Well just the “stoned kids” messing about could cause a tire failure, sending someone off the sidewalk and onto lane to get run over. Not something to be taken lightly.

      1. Avatar jeff says:

        or cause them to come to a harmless rolling stop. but hyperbole is fun!

        1. Avatar Lester Burnham says:

          Hyperbole is fun. Changing a flat or flats because some a-hole planted tacks of the path is not however.

    2. Avatar Brian says:

      Woah, easy man. Don’t pin this on the stoners. You must be confusing them with the drunk kids.

    3. Avatar was carless says:

      Says you. How do we know this isn’t the work of Al Qaeda terrorists?

  18. Avatar daisy says:

    Does anyone know if someone called the police (to report the tacks) and PBOT (to clean up the tacks)? Or this bridge a county bridge?

  19. Avatar Joe says:

    total bike violence 🙁

  20. Avatar colton says:

    They should have put up warning signs ahead of reflective tacks like what they did with the barrels stopping cars on SE Clinton. Then they could call them “Guerrilla bike diverters”!

  21. Avatar groovin101 says:

    Guess there’s still more to do on the hearts and minds front. At least no one was throwing bricks…

  22. Avatar Joe says:

    oh I’ve had a can thrown at me from that bridge.

    1. Avatar dan says:

      As in, you were riding the MUP in Waterfront Park, and someone threw a can at you from the bridge? Did you catch up to them?

  23. Avatar Kristen says:

    I picked up two in my tire this morning around 5:45am heading west bound by the bus stop. Made me late to work. And yes I have expensive tires. Two thumb tacks on both side walls definitely did the trick. 🙁

  24. Avatar Dave says:

    But men who post on bike portland are really easy to pick out — and, honestly, they all look the same to me. How about a trade? If you explain how I can detect a “homeless” person, I will explain how to recognize males who post on bike portland.
    Recommended 0

    Soren, I think it’s hilarious that you managed to drag the fact that I am male into it (which has absolutely nothing to do with any of this), all the while acting like it’s somehow outrageous for me to use the term “homeless”. Again, the PC police cannibalizing themselves proves to be one of the most entertaining things on the internet. Bravo!

    1. Avatar soren says:

      thanks for pointing out my blatant lie, dave. i now admit that men who post on bike portland are actually very hard to distinguish from other men in portland. i wish i could remember why i wrote such a silly statement…

  25. Avatar Joe says:

    no a car drove by me on the bridge throwing a can out the window.

  26. Avatar Anon says:

    BikePDX should organize an event where everyone who bicycles drives everywhere for a day just to show how much worse things could be without bikes.

  27. Avatar matt picio says:

    Michael, if you haven’t already reported this to Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Transportation Department, please do so. I will make sure this gets talked about next Wednesday (the 14th) at the county Bike/Ped meeting.

    Anyone else who was “tacked”, please report it – or consider coming to next week’s meeting in Room 126 (not the normal room) of the Multnomah County Building at 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd and telling the committee and county staff yourself. Thanks.

    1. Avatar wkw says:

      What time is this meeting Matt?

  28. Avatar Tacky says:

    Hello everyone. I am so sorry for all the trouble I may have caused. I was late for meeting at the Marriott hotel and parking was terrible. I had to park across the Hawthorne bridge under I-5. When I was running across the bridge, my briefcase latch let go and the contents were strewn all over the bridge. You see, I sell thumb tacks for Ningbo Interwell Import/Export Co. Ltd and I was on my way to meet with the buyers for a major US retail office supply chain. I had boxes and boxes of all or our latest innovative thumb tacks for samples. When the brief case spilled open, out came all of my sample tack products and they just went everywhere. I tried to pick them up, but hostile bicyclists kept beeping/ringing/yelling at me to get out of the way! I was so frustrated, I just left. I am so sorry for causing you trouble.

    However, despite the troubles, you should know the meeting went well!

    So next time you need a sharp object to put a hole in something, think Ningbo Interwell!

    -Wei (Joe) Jiang

  29. Avatar 180mm_dan says:

    I’ve had *four* flats in two months with premium tires, Top Contact II (Continental) Something unusal is going on, usually I get one every 3-4 months. However, I haven’t seen tacks in tire. Two were metal shards, like construction debris. The other two punctures were quick and loud, but didn’t sick in tire, maybe tack?? I ride interstate into downtown and often back, sometimes N Williams.

  30. Avatar wkw says:

    I believe I am a victim of this as well. I commute the Hawthorne bridge and have had 2 flats in the past month. The question is, if you catch someone in the ‘act’, how do you get the police to take it seriously?!?

  31. Avatar john says:

    Pulled two tacks out yesterday (Monday, January 12). Ch 6 ran segment about Hawthorne Bridge this morning. It appears we’ve had a second spreading of tacks.

    PS — No flats due to tacks with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires!

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