Bikers on W&OD Trail Plagued by Unexpected Problem: Tacks

by Dave Emke September 12, 2017 at 11:30 am 35 Comments

Rides on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail in recent days have been damaging for some bicyclists, as tacks spread on the path in the Herndon area have disabled bikes.

Bernard Kocis, service manager at Green Lizard Cycling in downtown Herndon, said he’s had to fix about 10 flat tires in the past two days because of the issue.

“That’s just people who have come in,” Kocis said. “How many people have fixed their own or called for a ride or whatever, I don’t know.”

The Reston Bike Club is warning its social media followers of the concern.

There has been a rash of tacks on the W&OD west of Herndon, causing many flats. W&OD Maintenance has gone out…

Posted by Reston Bike Club on Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In a comment on Reston Bike Club’s Facebook page, Green Lizard owner Beth Meyer said a majority of the tacks were reported to be in the area of the trail between Ferndale Avenue and Crestview Drive in Herndon. A moderator for the Bike Club’s page said they have been noted as far out as the Pacific Avenue crossing in Sterling, which is just west of Route 28.

“All the tacks look the same,” Kocis said, adding that while he rode into work on that area of the path Monday, he didn’t suffer damage.

Karl Mohle, park manager for the W&OD Trail, said a crew was sent out Monday afternoon with a magnetic sweeper in the effort to capture as many of the tacks as possible.

“They went down the trail and swept it clear, [and] we’re going to check it out almost daily,” Mohle said. “I don’t know if this is just a one-time, kind of high-school thing, or what.”

Mohle said that in his 10 years on the job, this is the first time he has heard of such an incident on the trail, which runs 45 miles from Purcellville in Loudoun County to Shirlington in Arlington County. Kocis also said this is an abnormal occurrence that is causing undue heartache to riders.

“[The bikers] are not happy when they have to have a tack pulled out of their tire and have to pay for service to have it repaired,” he said. “It’s an irritant, and people are riding bikes to have fun.”

  • noodmik

    Pepper Spray is an irritant. Then again so are bicyclists on the W&OD Trail.

    • IllegallyLivingInReston

      Really anyone who breathes near me or even just exists within a 50 foot radius is an irritant. Bring back the trains.

    • obxers

      Yep, people using the trail for (one of) its primary purpose(s), and getting outdoors and pursuing healthy activities (and, also, getting off the roads where drivers often are annoyed), sure is irritating to no end and should not be tolerated.

      • noodmik

        Rephrase — the abundance of overly aggressive bicyclists is an irritant.

        • NoGimmicksNutrition

          To be honest, I am less concerned about those you would likely consider “aggressive” than I am of “casual” users (cyclists, walkers, joggers). The folks you talk of are pretty highly skilled and know what they’re doing (by and large).

          • Mike M

            LOL! Does it ever make sense to zoom by a pedestrian within inches at top speed? Ever?

          • NoGimmicksNutrition

            While not addressing my point, I’m sure nothing will convince you, so I’ll leave it at that.

          • Mike M

            Let me turn up the volume for you.

            Are they among the highly skilled who zoom pedestrians? I think not. Yet I suspect they are those to whom you ascribe high skill. Tis they who have earned the contempt.

          • Jim Jadlos

            Most of us give a “on your left” warning in advance of passing other users.

          • Stephen Sachs

            Some give warnings but certainly not most although I find most bikers biking safely.

        • CeeTee55

          Cyclists belong on the roads. Not on the W&OD or sidewalks.

          • obxers

            When the W&OD was created, and long thereafter, it was very regularly referred to as “the bike trail” and has always been intended for use by cyclists, while not exclusively so.

          • Greg


            Run, cycle or skate the 45-mile route along the former roadbed of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, which runs through the urban heartland and into the Virginia countryside. Equestrians can ride the adjacent 32-mile gravel horse trail.


          • obxers

            Nope, sorry, but NOT wrong at all. I lived in Falls Church when and where it began and used the trail from the start and, whether or not it was intended to be enjoyed by pedestrians (indeed it was, as I said/suggested in my OP), it WAS, as I said, also intended to be used by cyclists (again, not exclusively) and WAS commonly referred to by locals as “the bike trail.” In other words, to my original point, people suggesting cyclists have no place on the W&OD are simply wrong. But thanks for that great link, though.

          • Greg

            Yup — wrong. It is now and always has been a multi-use path.

            Get over it. Sorry not sorry.

          • Debbie Welsh

            And then the cars yell at the cyclists to get off the road. Can’t win really.

          • Arnold Bradford

            There are thousands of miles of sidewalks in Fairfax County for pedestrians. There are many fewer miles of motor-vehicle-free environments for cyclists.

    • Don Kim

      Pepper sprays are not irritants, they are inflammatory agents. Guess being ignorant runs hand in hand with hating bicyclists lol

    • Kathleen

      Are you insane? THAT’S what the path was designed for!! Initially you could ride horses on it but stupid people ruined that… now you want cyclists off the trail, too. Go away, fool.

      • 40yearsinreston

        No it was not
        It was designed as a multiuse trail. The bike nazis have turned it into a race track
        Its becoming dangerous for pedestrians

        • Paul

          Yes, self-righteous walker and driver! Just like cars have highways and walkers have parks, it’s agreed that the bicyclists should confine themselves top all the places that are set aside just for bicyclists!
          Ah, well, except there aren’t any.

          • Joe

            Perhaps where your bicyclists-as-nazis jingoism breaks down logically, 40yearsinReston, is that the Germans actually had Germany to live in.

          • Mike M

            He made no mention of Germany.

          • Mike M


        • obxers

          “Bike nazi’s” reveals your colors on this issue.

    • CeeTee55

      They are. So are the pedestrians. Wish they’d ban them.

  • TheKingJAK

    It’s one of the few trails where cyclists can actually go fast and still be safe. I’m only a mountain biker myself, but the W&OD is the one spot where I can just cruise along and enjoy a good workout for miles on end around here. Whoever is placing tacks needs to be arrested. Even when I’m frustrated by cyclists who unnecessarily take up lanes of traffic I still don’t devolve into harming them or their bikes.

    • Ted Jones

      Arrested? Really?

      • obxers

        Yes, really. Intentionally causing property damage, perhaps intentionally trying to cause injury, and certainly very recklessly risking injury to cyclists, runners, walkers and dogs.

  • Arlington Resident

    Keep in mind that tacks are also very dangerous to dogs walking on the trail (as well as anyone wearing thin soled shoes).

  • ceefer

    Putting tacks on the trail is pretty foul. What if a child steps on one?

  • Why do you bother?

    What is wrong with people????

  • Stephen Sachs

    I don’t bike but I walk on the W&OD all the time and I’ve never really had any problems with bikers. Sure there are the occasional rude ones but that’s the exception. I think as long as walkers stay to the right passing isn’t a problem. I have seen some dead and injured animals on the trail so please look out for wildlife. Thanks

    • obxers

      As a very frequent (several times a week) cyclist, runner and pedestrian on the W&OD, thanks for your voice of reason. There are safe cyclists who, even at speed, announce their presence and passing and slow where overly congested, and there are dangerous cyclists; and there are safe pedestrians and runners staying toward the right, and there are dangerous runners and pedestrians, including those walking on the wrong side of the trail, some runners/walkers wearing headphones too loud so they hear nothing around them, and others insisting on their right to walk in the very middle of the path and refusing to budge an inch when approached from either direction by others. Yet, to some, the “bike nazis” are the cause of all danger Everyone should be mindful of others using the trail and act accordingly.

  • Regular trail user

    Scumbags. That’s the only word for someone who sets out to injure people or damage property. The trail is multi-use folks and just like the open road some users are less considerate than others. Stay safe out there! #sharetheroad


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