Riders to tackle Melbourne’s Yarra Boulevard this Sunday in “Boulie tacks” protest

by Matt de Neef


Roughly 300 riders are expected to descend on Melbourne’s Yarra Boulevard this Sunday morning in protest against the deliberate dropping of upholstery tacks on the roadway.

For more than 14 months now cyclists have been reporting the presence of tacks on Yarra Boulevard, presumably dropped there to dissuade riders from using what is one of Melbourne’s most popular cycling thoroughfares. As yet the individual(s) responsible are yet to be apprehended.

Organiser of the protest ride, George Mihailides, told CyclingTips that he created Sunday’s event after months of frustration and after a fresh batch of tacks was seemingly dropped on Yarra Boulevard in recent weeks.

“The final trigger was when five out of a bunch of 10 riders (many of them being cyclists that I know) punctured during a ride last week. I clearly remember thinking ‘enough is enough’,” Mihailides told CyclingTips. “I knew that the authorities had been trying to catch the perpetrator for some time without success.

“From my perspective, more of the same was/is pointless. The approach needed to be changed and the matter needed to be escalated.”

Local police have been investigating the issue since early 2014 but Inspector Steve Frost of Boroondara police told CyclingTips for a recent article that, so far, it’s been a fruitless search.

“At this stage we’re finding it increasingly frustrating,” Inspector Frost said. “We haven’t had any great success to date in identifying who the offenders are. We remain committed and very keen to do that but at this stage we haven’t had any great luck.”

Inspector Frost told CyclingTips that police will be in attendance on Sunday: “We support the riders and we will have a police presence at the protest ride.”

In announcing the “No Boulie Tacks” ride on the event’s website, George Mihailides called for four “minimum specific measures” in response to the ongoing “Boulie tacks” issue:

  1. Daily sweeping with appropriate equipment of the Boulevard until the tacks stop and/or the perpetrator is apprehended.
  2. The installation of surveillance cameras with appropriate monitoring and recording capable of identifying persons at night as well as day.
  3. Increased police patrols of the area.
  4. Someone to take overall ownership of the issue, which we believe should be Parks Victoria.

Achieving these measures will require far greater resources than have been thrown at the problem thus far. VicRoads already spends between $1,000 and $2,500 on each visit to Yarra Boulevard with the streetsweeper, and installing surveillance cameras would come at a significant cost. And as Inspector Frost told CyclingTips in March: “Police have got a number of competing priorities … there are a multitude of other things police could be doing than looking for some fool depositing tacks on the road.”

Mr Mihailides acknowledged that police have competing demands but that the Boulie tacks issue still needs resolving.

“I get it. We all get it. This issue is a long way down the list of priorities,” Mr Mihailides said. “But having said that, we are still talking about a crime, and one that if not addressed may ultimately result in someone being seriously hurt.”

“As a citizen of this state, I have a reasonable expectation that crimes will be resolved no matter how serious or petty they are.”

Mr Mihailides told CyclingTips that greater “ownership” of the issue is required by police and other authorities if the necessary resources are to be found and the issue resolved.

“None of the authorities involved would by choice pay for anything, let alone video surveillance. I’m not saying they aren’t investing, they clearly are, but none of them will be willing to dip into their piggy bank to pay for surveillance.”

“I’m no bureaucrat and its not for me to dictate where the money should come from, but my understanding is that with the exception of the road surface itself (excluding the road shoulder), the Kew Boulevard precinct is the responsibility of Parks Victoria. That strikes me as reason enough for them to own the problem and be accountable for its resolution.”

“Someone needs to be empowered to say ‘you will do that’ and until someone does we will be left with cracks for cyclists to fall into.”

Riders interested in attending the protest should gather at the corner of Yarra Boulevard and Walmer Street at 8.30am on Sunday May 3, 2015. The ride will commence at 9am, following a briefing, and will include one lap of Yarra Boulevard (to Chandler Highway and back) for a total of 13.2km. The ride will be conducted at a very easy pace.

If you have any information that might assist police in their investigation, please call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

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