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Commish Eudaly’s office works with police to solve “deliberate act” of nails in Interstate Ave bike lanes

Posted by on January 8th, 2019 at 2:38 pm

It’s taken years of complaints but it seems we’ve finally the attention of city officials on a recurring bike lane safety issue that might have a malicious origin.

The case of nails being strewn in the bike lane on North Interstate Avenue has gone unsolved for years. Now the police and a city commissioner are on the case.

We first reported about this in March 2017, but that wasn’t when the problem started. A quick search of Twitter posts shows that complaints go back to 2012. Someone tagged the Portland Bureau of Transportation with a complaint about it in September 2016 (who then forwarded it to the maintenance department).

In January 2018, the issue received its own Twitter account when @InterstateNails was born.

With several nail incidents at the end of last year, KATU-TV reporter (and daily bicycle rider) Reed Andrews gave the issue much-needed visibility.

After the most recent frustrating flare-up in flats, we heard from a staffer in PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office. Margaux Weeke wanted us to know the issue was on their radar and that they’d reached out to PBOT and the Portland Police Bureau to ask about how/if it was being managed. “The problem isn’t falling on deaf ears,” Weeke promised.

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After the holiday break we got an update from Weeke. She said PPB officers had been cycling on Interstate to get a closer look at the two-mile stretch between Lloyd and Greeley where the nails most commonly appear. Weeke forwarded comments from the PPB about their findings. “At first we thought it was maybe construction debris,” they wrote, “but at this point it seems to be a deliberate act.”

Notes from the PPB investigation also say days and times the nails appear are random and that they’ve noted a variety of types including roofing and framing nails.

Their investigation into this issue is still in progress and hasn’t yielded major clues at this point.

While the problem still isn’t solved, it’s good to know that at least City Hall, the PPB, and PBOT are working together on this. We’ll keep you posted if they make any breakthroughs. In the meantime, please tag us on Twitter if you find any nails.

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

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

28 Comments
  • Avatar
    maxD January 8, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    is there a non-twitter way to report this?

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      Alan Love January 8, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      You can call PBOT at 503-823-SAFE or use an online submission form ( https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/319727 ).

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        Timo Forsberg January 9, 2019 at 10:06 am

        If you are calling about an immediate hazard, such as nails, broken glass or downed tree limbs in the lane, I’d suggest PBOT’s 24-hour maintenance line: 503-823-1700.

        For something requiring a longer-term fix (speeding on your local street, etc.), 823-SAFE, safe@portlandoregon.gov or the link in Alan’s comment are the way to go.

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      Eric Leifsdad January 8, 2019 at 4:31 pm

      The pdxreporter.org “debris in roadway” tool lets you report with GPS location (or just type in the cross streets) and typically gets a pretty quick turnaround. Make sure to say which side of the street or north/southbound.

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    bikeninja January 8, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    I travel this chunk of interstate everyday, and the placement of these nails is not an accident. Whoever is doing this does not really understand bikes because these nails are a hazard but a little too big to be effective in giving cyclists flats. Within a short time most of them end up in the travel lane on interstate because the bike lane is so narrow and wind swept, so the perpetrator is mostly giving flats to his/her fellow auto-zombies. These nails are a perfect size to give flats to cars.

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      Alex January 8, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Yep – exactly this. I don’t know how many times I have stopped to pick them up and have thought the exact same thing. Stupid is as stupid does.

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      Carter January 8, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      I came across a bunch of nails in this stretch in the middle of last year (I stopped and picked them all up, of course.) I considered that it might be intentional because they were mostly in the bike lane but, as you noted, they are pretty ineffectual against bike tires so I decided they just fell off a truck. I had no idea it was an ongoing thing! People are the worst!

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty January 9, 2019 at 1:32 am

      No no no! Gosh, I hope the phantom nailer isn’t lurking in this forum because those nails are far to small to present a hazard to cyclists. To really do damage to a bike, they would need to use something like these bike killing nails:

      https://i.pinimg.com/236x/23/ef/c2/23efc26f51e3459aab96a9bd0c69e69b–railroad-spikes-washington-state.jpg

      I hope the phantom nailer doesn’t find out and use these. Or we’ll all be sad.

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      brian January 9, 2019 at 10:55 am

      I have my own large collection of these nails from years of riding on Interstate and I think I’ve got 2 flats from these nails. They are big enough to see and mostly avoid but just one more hazard to constantly be on the lookout for.

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    Andrew Kreps January 8, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    I greatly appreciate all of your efforts to keep our bike lanes clear. If it’s something dangerous and hard to pick up like auto glass from a collision, you can use one of Portland’s best kept secrets: The street sweep dispatch 24h phone number.

    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/529632#five

    I’ve used this many times, and they’re exceptionally helpful. Yeah, it’s a phone call, but it takes 20 seconds and you get to talk to a human being.

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    Lester Burnham January 9, 2019 at 7:01 am

    Pretty narcissistic to think these meant specifically for cyclists.

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      Middle of the Road Guy January 9, 2019 at 3:01 pm

      Correct. When I want to flatten the tires of ambulances (just for the lulz), I put nails in the bike lane instead of the actual road.

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    Fred January 9, 2019 at 7:08 am

    Perhaps nails can become “fingerprinted” – small barcodes imprinted on them so police can find out where the nails were purchased, and by whom.

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      Gary B January 9, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Why not microchips in each nail?

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      SilkySlim January 9, 2019 at 8:57 am

      This is ridiculous. A $15 tax at purchase is clearly the more holistic solution.

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      Middle of The Road Guy January 9, 2019 at 9:46 am

      I feel the same way about black hoods. Maybe we can find out just exactly who the ANTIFA and Anarchist terrorists are.

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        CaptainKarma January 9, 2019 at 12:16 pm

        ?

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      oliver January 10, 2019 at 9:55 am

      Clearly nails should be licensed and carry insurance.

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    Buzz January 9, 2019 at 8:55 am

    My money is on some rogue employee of Clow Roofing, who would have easy access to an endless supply of brand new roofing nails, and works for a business which is located right off N Interstate at N Tillamook and Kerby; I’ve found the nails right at the corner of N Interstate and Tillamook, they were like a trail of breadcrumbs leading right to this business.

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    jered January 9, 2019 at 9:27 am

    glad to see some action on this. I ride the route everyday and I’ve mostly been finding them to the south of Spirit of 77. I had a 3 week stretch where once a week there would be a new cluster, only in that block though. I reported each to PBOT and they were promptly cleaned up! I haven’t seen them yet this year. I was thinking about self funding an investigation, maybe some game cameras… though they’d get triggered a lot based on the amount of traffic.

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    Ken S January 9, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Guys in the area where the nails have been found,
    Please upload photos and tag all spots where nails have been found for the Bike Lane Uprising website/twitter, so they can build a public record of the bike lane obstructions.

    It’s heartening that city hall is actually paying attention to this kind of thing, now.

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    Al January 9, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I had my own conspiracy theory about a section of my commute that I would find nails and staples on. Years later, I just came to the conclusion that it’s PHYSICS. Thanks a lot physics, chemistry never did this to me.

    The section is on an incline where unsecured cargo rolls off the back of trucks as they drive up the hill and traffic works debris into the bike lane. Nails and staples are small enough to fit through the crack between the bed and tailgate. I never find similar debris on the opposite side of the street going down hill.

    Fortunately, this section gets frequent attention from the street sweeper so these typically disappear in a week or two and being an uphill section, I’m going slow enough to notice and navigate around the hazards.

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      Buzz January 9, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      Sorry, but this is not the case on Interstate. The section or N Interstate between Broadway and Tillamook is pretty much flat and the nails are deposited in what appear to be discrete handfuls every couple hundred feet in the bike lane, usually at 3 to 4 locations between Broadway and Tillamook.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty January 9, 2019 at 1:04 pm

        Actually, there might well be a natural explanation. That area is well know as one of the places where the Oregon Vortex can spill out of the crust due to either direct or offset internal squeezing, creating periods of concentrically inverting high magnetic anomaly that could be attracting loose nails from the back of trucks, which, due to the eccentricty/concentricity, would create patterns that appear deliberate. This can be deceptive in the same way in which crop circles can appear to be constructed by human hands.

        The effect is usually short-lived, but if a contractor’s vehicle had loose nails in the bed, and entered the area during an outburst of high or oblique internal vortex squeezing, it could account for what we’re seeing. Hard to know for sure, though. If Eudaly really wants to get to the bottom of this, I’d suggest her office consult with a physicist.

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          David Hampsten January 9, 2019 at 2:51 pm

          I had always assumed that just as sidewalks generated telephone poles, asphalt was where nails came from, you know, organically. But you say it’s physics and not biology?

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            Spontaneous Glenneration January 9, 2019 at 6:56 pm

            Yep and “places you’re not looking” spontaneously generate cyclists too. That’s why “He came out of nowhere!”

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty January 9, 2019 at 10:19 pm

              I thought it was more like spontaneous glenneration.

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    Joey Keenan January 25, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    New nails going up Mt Interstate today.

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