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Multiple reports of nails strewn across north Portland bike lanes


Nails found on/near N Interstate Ave in the past week.
(Photos sent in by readers)

There’s something fishy going on with roofing nails in the bike lanes of north Portland — particularly along the Interstate Avenue corridor.

In the past two days we’ve received four separate reports from readers who have found them scattered across bike lanes. And it’s not the first time we’ve heard about nails in this general vicinity. We received a report about nails on Interstate Ave in 2014. Back in September 2016 we were tipped off to another report of nails on Interstate via a Reddit post.

We don’t want to jump to conclusions here. The nails could very well be falling off trucks. Clow Roofing and Siding Company is located just one block off of Interstate on Tillamook — which means their trucks likely travel the same road where most of these nail reports have been made. As you can see in the map we’ve made, all the reports we’ve gotten so far — except for one — are from Interstate Avenue.

Is this all the result of nails accidentally falling off trucks? Or is someone deliberately messing with bicycle riders? Is it both? Without a full investigation — or someone being caught red-handed — it’s impossible to know.

I called Clow Roofing today to tell them about the issue and ask a few questions. The person I spoke with said they only have one flatbed truck that has exterior equipment boxes (all their other trucks are fully-enclosed pickups). The Clow employee also said they usually only use nails in a coil that would go into a nail gun. She hadn’t heard of any reports of nails falling off trucks but said she’d tell the manager about the issue just in case.

Here are some snippets from emails and Tweets we’ve received:

Jessica H.:

“Today is day 2 of nails in the northbound N Interstate bike lane. I came across 2 patches yesterday morning and picked up one in front of the Kaiser campus. This morning, I came across 2 fresh patches, one on the hill leading up to the Kaiser campus and another in front of the campus but further north than yesterday. These 2 patches weren’t there yesterday morning. It is interesting that in each patch, it is about a handful of nails and is mostly located in the bike lane with only a few nails out in the traffic lane. Not sure if this is an accident or intentional, but I thought I would put it out there.”

Tim P.:

“I first picked up nails on Interstate Ave on Monday the 6th [of March]. They were between the Greely light and the top of the hill, north bound. The second pile was in front of the Alibi. A coworker had told me about them when he saw them on a lunch ride. He picked up another pile in front of Broder Norde on Wednesday the 8th, again at lunch time. Hope this helps.”

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Here’s how they look before being picked up.
(Photo: Jessica H.)

Jason N.:

“Someone dropped a bunch of nails in the bike lane on Wheeler heading north toward Williams. I picked up a couple dozen. Funny that they are only in the bike lane…”

Randy A.:

“I picked up the pile of roofing nails on the left today in the northbound N. Interstate bike lane between N Thunderbird and N Tillamook. The pile in the container on the right I picked up at the SW corner of the intersection of N Tillamook and N Interstate about a month ago, just after the big snow storm. I’m not sure anyone is deliberately targeting cyclists here, although that is one possible explanation.”

Brent S.:

“I had a concerning incident, and I wasn’t sure if you’d heard of anything similar. I was biking south on Interstate Avenue just before the Max crossing on Bryant St. My back tire abruptly stopped and I had to put both my feet down. I got off the bike and looked at the tire. A piece of wood, which looked like lath, was stuck up under the rain flap. I pulled it off the tire. There were small nails sticking from the wood. Needless to say, my tire quickly went flat. I have a picture of the wood. I don’t know if it was an accident or purposeful, but it seems suspicious that it was in the middle of the bike lane with nails sticking up. Hopefully no one else has had a similar episode, but I thought I should make others aware of the potential.”

Accidental or not, we’d love to get to the bottom of this.

For historical reference, you might recall that in 2011 someone threw tacks in the bike lanes of N Vancouver and Williams. The incident seemed so deliberate that a man offered $500 for information leading to an arrest. In 2015 a tack incident on the Hawthorne Bridge got so bad that Multnomah County had to use a magnetic sweeper to pick them up.

If you come across nails in the bike lane, or if you’ve seen anything suspicious, please let us know. And be careful while riding in this area.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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