Copyright 2014 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Kylie Martin likes to ride her bicycle along the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, but on Sunday morning she decided to bike over the recently opened Courtney Campbell Causeway pedestrian walkway.
"It was such a beautiful day," said the 25-year-old cycling enthusiast.
Then the ride turned rough. "I was 15 miles out when it started getting really bumpy," she said. She saw her front tire was flat, the victim of a thumbtack.
She was 15 miles from the east end of the trail, with a flat tire. Fortunately, she was able to get her boyfriend on the phone before he went to work and he rescued her near the Pinellas County end of the walkway.
Monday morning, she saw her rear tire also was flat, thanks to a thumbtack.
"It's hurtful why people want to do that," she said. "It will cost me $25 for both my tires. It's not that much, but it's $25 I can't spend on something else."
The scattering of hundreds of thumbtacks along the trail likely was not an accident, officials said. Police began receiving calls from cyclists and pedestrians just before noon Sunday, and though five cyclists were listed as victims on police reports, dozens more - perhaps as many as 50 bikers - may have limped home on damaged bicycles.
Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis on Monday said how the tacks got on the pavement remained unclear.
"We don't know the motive," she said. "We can't speculate, though it's hard to believe it's accidental. It could be kids thinking they are playing a funny prank, which clearly it is not, or it could be with malicious intent. We don't know."
Workers with the city parks department were called in and used a magnetic roller attached to the back of a vehicle to gather the tacks on the east end of the path, and a crew with the Florida Department of Transportation helped clear the center span and beyond.
A police officer was posted at the eastern end of the trail to warn bikers.
The thumbtacks likely were dumped there intentionally, said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
"They were spread in a malicious manner," Carson said. "There were hundreds of them, and there is no reason for anyone to have that many out there on a trail like that. I think there were 51 bikes that had damage."
She said that even though crews from the city and state took several hours to clean up the tacks, the trail was never shut down.
The walkway and bridge, which at its peak is 45 feet above Old Tampa Bay, opened for pedestrians and bicyclists in September.
The 16-foot-wide bridge, which will not accommodate motor vehicles, cost about $14.6 million, with most of the money coming from a federal grant. The western end of the trail is still under construction and is expected to be finished this year. The 9-mile scenic trail, which runs along the south side of the causeway, will connect to other trails in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
The trail and bridge did spark some controversy when transportation officials, citing safety concerns, banned fishing on the structure.
They said anglers casting lines, and perhaps leaving chairs, coolers and other items along the path, could injure bicyclists and walkers.
Fishing is allowed on the approaches to the bridge, but not on the structure itself, though before the span officially opened to pedestrians and bikers, anglers made their way toward the center span and used it. Cyclists complained to the state that discarded fishing tackle, dead fish, coolers and chairs littered the walkway, making a bike trip across the bridge dangerous.