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Jupiter Island Cycling Haters Turn To Tacks

Palm Beach Post Column: Jupiter Island cycling haters turn to tacks

By Frank Cerabino
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ronnie and Bob Horowitz were pedaling their bicycles on Jupiter Island’s oceanfront road when they heard the distinctive pop that signaled a flat tire.

The Jupiter retirees, who have been cyclists for many years, weren’t fazed by the flat tire on the Labor Day sunrise ride. At least not at first.

Not until Ronnie stopped her bike in the parking lot of Blowing Rocks Preserve, removed the wheel and discovered the culprit.

"It was a tiny black carpet tack that was still lodged in the tire," she said.

What’s a carpet tack doing in the road?

"Over my shoulder I heard voices," the 59-year-old woman said.

Two more cyclists were stopped on the side of the road a few hundred yards away, changing a flat tire. Another black carpet tack.

’We began to think the worst’

"As another cyclist rode by, he said that there were about five additional cyclists which he had just passed who also had flat tires," Horowitz said. "Those little black carpet tacks again. Strange!"

And after fixing her flat and continuing on the ride, she said she noted groups of cyclists on both sides of the picturesque South Beach Road changing flats.

"After we had seen about a dozen cyclists with flat tires, we began to think the worst," Horowitz said.

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to imagine that somebody on Jupiter Island had set out to ruin the mornings of weekend bike riders through town.

Next week, the town is considering an ordinance that would make riding more than five bicycles in a group a traffic offense, and mandating 25-foot separations between groups of bikes.

In the meantime, somebody has come up with a more direct way of keeping the riding public from using the public road.

"Most people just came in here with the flats and vented," said Lee Dillard, a manager of the J-Town Bike shop in Jupiter. "These tacks are real small. They’re not going to hurt a car tire, but they go right in a high-performance bike tire."

Frustrations add up

The bike shop’s owner, Jeff Orr, said this wasn’t the first orchestrated effort to sabotage cyclists. A few weeks ago, thumbtacks were used in Juno Beach, he said.

"I try to look at it from the other side," he said. "Our recreational area is also a transportation area, so it’s a strange mix. There’s always five drivers who get bent with you whatever ride you’re on. That’s four times a week, so there’s 20 people a week getting upset.

"Over time, that adds up."

In Boca Raton last month, a confrontation between cyclists and a driver who may have passed too close ended in an assault charge against a cyclist.

But putting tacks in the road is, as Ronnie Horowitz put it, "tacky." Will it keep her and her husband off Jupiter Island’s scenic public road?

"We rode there again this morning," she said Thursday. "No flats."