Someone’s been taking out the bikes in Riverside Park. The weapon: carpet tacks, sprinkled on the path with malicious, tire-bursting intent. Most reports of tack trouble come from the section of the greenway between 137th and 145th Streets, behind Riverbank State Park, but cyclists have reported tacks as far north as the George Washington Bridge at 181st. But it’s not clear that the attacks were limited to uptown—one victim told Ravin he didn’t notice his flat until he returned to Christopher Street from a ride up to Inwood.
“I’ve been a bicycle advocate since 1987,” says the Five Borough Bicycle Club’s Ed Ravin, “and I’ve never heard of vandalism on this scale.” Jamie Favaro, a homeless-outreach worker, usually bikes from her house in Chinatown to the George Washington Bridge bus station to get to work in Washington Heights. “I had seen all these people with flats and was like, ‘I’m so glad I have these fancy tires,’ and then all of a sudden, around 181st, I got one myself,” she says with a sigh. “It was so weird. It wasn’t till I got home that I saw it was this giant metal tack. It really ripped the tire open.”
The whodunit is the talk of the biking set. Riders “assume some biker just pissed someone off so they’re throwing tacks around the path,” says Hugh Ash of Metro Bicycles on 96th Street. He says that in the past week, he’s seen at least five or six tack victims per day. “The joke running around the bicycle community,” says Ravin, is that it’s the cop who organizes the police response to Critical Mass rides in the city. “It would be nice if they took those guys off Critical Mass duty and sent them down the greenway now and then,” he adds. However, Assistant Chief Michael Collins says the NYPD has received no complaints. “Cyclists haven’t thought of calling the police,” theorizes Ravin. “But this isn’t a littering problem, it’s sabotage.” City Parks rep Carli Smith says the department has received several reports of tacks in the past week and is monitoring the area. In the meantime, bike shops and cyclists alike are facing a quandary. “I hate it!” says Ozzie Perez, owner of Tread Bike Shop in Inwood. “Financially, it’s been great for us—we fixed more than 100 flats—but now people don’t want to go on the greenway uptown.” Ravin warns that “to stay off the bike path is to give this guy a victory.”