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Bike-based contractor denied service at metal recycler for not being in a motor vehicle

Posted by on November 30th, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Builder by Bike - Chris Sanderson-1
Chris Sanderson of Builder By Bike.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Chris Sanderson is a Portland-based licensed general contractor. Like many people in his line of work, he does a far amount of demolition and hauling for his clients. But unlike other contractors, Sanderson’s company vehicle is a bicycle, not a truck. Sanderson owns Builder By Bike LLC, a bike-based company he launched back in February.

On a recent job, he was asked to take down a metal basketball goal. He didn’t think there would be any problem taking it to a local metal recycler, so he was surprised when he was turned away.

Sanderson emailed us to share what happened:

“I loaded that metal goal on my bike trailer (along with other metal), and took it to a Bob’s Metals in North Portland to recycle the material. I was told that I was not allowed to bring metal to their scrap yard because I was not in a motor vehicle. I tried to talk to the associate at the metal scrap yard, and she told me that it is a state law, and that I could not drop off the metal there because I was on a bicycle.”

Sanderson says he was “very upset” by what happened. Now he’s hoping to work with his state representatives in Salem — Rep Jules Bailey and Senator Diane Rosebaum — to amend the law so it never happens again. He has written his state representatives in hopes they will champion the issue.

(Photo: Chris Sanderson)

An employee of Bob’s Metals recalled Sanderson’s visit when I spoke with them today. The employee said they are not able to service people that arrive on bicycles because of a state law that requires them to document would-be recyclers. “One of the records we are required to keep when someone comes in is a license plate. We cannot buy from people on foot or bicycle,” she said.

The Bob’s employee said she’s following SB 570, a law passed in 2009 that was aimed at thwarting metal thieves. That law requires metal recyclers and resellers to record, “A description of, and the license number and issuing state shown on the license plate affixed to, the motor vehicle.” But it’s important to note that “motor vehicle” is immediately followed by “if any”.

The Bob’s Metals employee said the problem was worse a few years ago, when “people were stealing metal and then scrapping it for cash.” “And the majority of them were on bicycles,” she added. This is the first time this issue has come up at Bob’s Metals since the law was passed.

This is unfortunate. The law is either unclear or it contains an unintended bias against bicycles that should be amended as soon as possible so that people like Sanderson are not denied service in the future. We’ll keep you posted.

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  • Alan 1.0 November 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Sanderson’s state-issued contractor’s license is a heckuva lot more meaningful than a car license plate, and identifies him better.

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  • mark j ginsberg November 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    the law says “if ANY” right after the license plate requirement. http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measures/sb0500.dir/sb0570.intro.html

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      yeah. I noticed that too. I just amended the story a bit.

      On that note… when I read the law it doesn’t seem to stand up to the claim that a recycler cannot serve a person on a bike. Is this a case of a misread of the law? And/or another situation where references to vehicles are unclear and people tend to forget that bicycles are legally considered vehicles in oregon?

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    • 9watts November 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      good catch. Took me three readings to find that. Here’s the text:

      (v) A description of, and the license number and issuing state
      shown on the license plate affixed to, the motor vehicle, if any,
      used to transport the individual who conducts, or the nonferrous
      metal property or private metal property that is the subject of,
      the transaction;

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      • wsbob November 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        (v) A description of, and the license number and issuing state
        shown on the license plate affixed to, the motor vehicle, if any,
        used to transport the individual who conducts, or the nonferrous
        metal property or private metal property that is the subject of,
        the transaction;

        By the way, that excerpt is on page 6 of the law, the copy of which the following link led to: http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measures/sb0500.dir/sb0570.en.html

        This specifications detailed in the text of this law amendment are very complex, so I think it’s probably understandable that people might become confused about exactly what it specifies. The excerpt you’ve posted clearly specifies ‘motor vehicle’, rather than simply ‘vehicles’, the latter being recognition the law gives to bicycles on the road. I used the ‘find’ function of the browser, and did not find the word ‘bike’ or ‘bicycle’ used even once in the law amendment text.

        Most bicycles don’t have motors, so on that distinction alone, the lady handling customer service at Bob’s probably could have seen the company was free of having to refuse doing business with someone bringing things in to sell, using a bike.

        Personally though, the lady knew that the business had a history of people suspected of bringing in stolen material, using bikes for transport. Maybe knowing this past experience on the part of the business, or somehow else, she erroneously arrived at a conclusion that goods couldn’t be bought from someone, if every other qualification was satisfactorily met, but that they were bringing them in on a bike.

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  • 9watts November 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    (1) See Alan 1.0 – not very creative on the part of Bob & Co.

    (2) Interesting how loudly some folks (even here on bikeportland) have objected in the past when someone would suggest bikes are separate but unequal.

    (3) I want to know what you did with the metal after they refused you, Chris? Very sorry you were refused service, and intrigued by your discovery of this law.

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  • Mindful Cyclist November 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I can understand the intent behind the current law. However, I think showing a contractors license would be sufficient. It is too bad that it has to come to this that I could not pedal over to a recycling place and have it accepted.

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    • A.K. November 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      It’s more annoying that the folks at the recycling place can’t do some “outside of the box thinking” and make the assumption that this guy isn’t a methhead hawking stolen metal.

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      • Rol November 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        They don’t need to make any assumption whatsoever. They just need to do their job and follow the law, which we’ve seen makes no discrimination as to mode of transport. As for who is a meth freak and who isn’t, that is not only irrelevant, but also unknowable. Or rather it’s only knowable by eyewitnesses who actually see the guy using or transacting in meth right there, or by detectives who have done the work to prove their assumptions with FACTS, which are what the rule of law in a civilized society supposedly runs on.

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      • Mindful Cyclist November 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm

        In all fairness as someone that works with people with drug and alcohol problems, it is not always easy to just peg what a “methhead” looks like. It is much harder to peg what someone that is addicted to pills looks like and that is much more prevalent now.

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        • Robert Burchett December 1, 2012 at 9:14 am

          Scruffy-looking people with unconventional lives and possible substance abuse problems have a lot to teach us, as early adopters of bikes for transport, bike trailers, etc. These people do not put bikes on top of their car on the way to events! And, they do not look out their car window and tell me how or where to ride a bike.

          On the other hand, some of these people aren’t very careful about where they get stuff. OK, they steal. At a scrap yard, cyclist equals thief. In this case their misreading of the law was a convenient way to discriminate. You would think that having a contractors license would help them revise their categories, though.

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  • SilkySlim November 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Well, now there is exactly ONE good reason to have a bike licensing law. :)

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    • 9watts November 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      How about two good reasons to read the statute carefully before misapplying it to a minority easily discriminated against?

      Sounds to me like Chris and Mark should go back with a copy of the statute and a highlighter to Bob’s and demand service and an apology.

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      • Spiffy November 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

        this is exactly what I would do… and if they refused again then the Better Business Bureau would be contacted…

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  • Brandon Van Buskirk November 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Why wouldn’t the state law require a photo id as a form of identification? I hope vehicle as form of identification doesn’t become more popular! The airport would be even more of a mad house.

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    • q`Tzal December 1, 2012 at 12:48 am

      I’d think a photocopy of a state ID with a thumb and index fingerprint would more than exceed the law’s intent to facilitate tracking criminals.

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  • dmc November 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Why wouldn’t a state issued Identification card be applicable?

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    • Pete November 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      Forget about state-issued, my US Passport should be able to do the trick too.

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  • Tom November 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Although I live in Kentucky, I am told by other cycling folks that Oregon has some very discriminatory laws (mandatory bike lane use) that enforce the notion that cyclists are second-class road users rather than real road users. This anti-bicycle bias is part of our society, sad to say, and codified like that, it reinforces discrimination like that described in this article.

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  • Rol November 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Misread of the law. When you get to the box on the form that asks for the license plate, you put a dash, or “N/A” and move on.

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    • Rol November 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      And then you take the metal and pay the man.

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  • Rian November 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Seems like the law could be revised with some if/else logic. Regardless of your vehicle (or even on foot), if you have a valid Oregon ID or Driver’s Licence why does the vehicle matter. If a second form of ID is necessary, what if it was your Oregon CCB#? A state issued ID that matches a state issued CCB.

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    • Pete November 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      Seems to me like this law already contains that if/else logic!

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      • q`Tzal December 1, 2012 at 12:51 am

        <giggle snort>
        You used the words “law” and “logic” in the same sentence.
        </giggle snort>

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  • John Lascurettes November 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Wouldn’t his contractor’s license number and/or driver’s license number count as a pretty damned good positive ID?

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  • Babygorilla November 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    The law requires valid state ID as well as recording the license plate, if any. The law has some fairly extensive record keeping requirements and some potentially still penalties for violating. Bob’s Metals (or its attorney) could just be being overly-cautious.

    Of course, the business could also make a business decision not to accept metal from anyone not transporting in a motor vehicle, law or no law (assuming there’s not some law or permit condition that requires Bob’s Metals to accept materials from any member of the public).

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  • Richard Allan November 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    You can’t count on the employees to understand the statute. My car uses diesel, and the “no self serve” law in Oregon does not apply to diesel (which, unlike gasoline, is not a Class 1 Flammable liquid). But most gas station owners and attendants will still freak out if you try to pump your own diesel.

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  • Sunny November 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I just make “vroom vroom” noises. Fools them every time.

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  • Chris November 30, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    A staffer from Representative Jules Bailey contacted me, saying that they will look into the law more.

    I went to Bob’s because it was located so close to my client’s house in Kenton. I thought it would be no problem to take the metal there, but was firmly told I could not be there. I was miffed by the whole ordeal, but know that Bob’s is just following state law. The Port of San Francisco has a similar law, and I was told I had to arrive in a vehicle with a motor on it. I did just that. I duct taped a cordless drill to my bike with the motor running, and they let recycle the metal I brought.

    I would like to see if I can get the law changed to include those with a contractor’s license. We’ll see what happens!

    Chris

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  • annefi November 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    What an awesome trailer he has!

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  • paul g. November 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I wouldn’t be so quick to condemn the employees. The law is pretty clear: the onus for the law is all on the buyers of scrap metal. There were a lot of illegitimate buyers out there that might make the legitimate ones all that more gun shy.

    Who issues the form that the employee is filling out? The employer or the state? What does the state really want? That may be key.

    The problem, already pointed out above, is that that Section 6 (C) (v) of the law is very inelegantly phrased. This is literally parsing the text but I think there is an extra comma after “affixed to”:

    (v) A description of, and the license number and issuing state
    shown on the license plate affixed to, the motor vehicle, if any,
    used to transport the individual

    If you remove that first comma, then how can you read the “if any” other than saying “if any car” then you need to record the license number.

    (You might argue that is implies that *only* motor vehicles can transport metal goods onto the property and a license plate number, “if any” number, must be recorded. But if you read it that way, it implies that a motor vehicle *without* a set of valid tags–and thus in violation of another law– could still enter the property and the buyer is waived of the need to record the tag number. That seems odd for a law intended to catch metal thieves.)

    Here’s the link from the State Police describing the requirements of the law http://www.oregon.gov/osp/pages/metal_trans_certificate.aspx, but they refer buyers to the local DA for specifics (click on “Scrap Metal Buyers” under “Commonly Asked Questions” at the bottom of the page).

    P.S. The law already requires a photocopy of a valid state issued ID as well as a videotape of the transaction:

    (vi) A photocopy of a current, valid driver license or other
    government-issued photo identification belonging to the
    individual with whom the scrap metal business conducts the
    transaction;
    (vii) A photograph of, or video surveillance recording
    depicting, a recognizable facial image of the individual with
    whom the scrap metal business conducts the transaction; and

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  • Al from PA December 1, 2012 at 1:06 am

    I was told I had to arrive in a vehicle with a motor on it. I did just that. I duct taped a cordless drill to my bike with the motor running,

    Brilliant “everyday life” theater.

    And a brilliant response to road-rage type motorists as well. “I’m on a motorized vehicle too.” Maybe a way to get more respect in local and state government? “We love our motors just as much as you do.”

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  • Steve Scarich December 1, 2012 at 9:02 am

    It seems like almost all the posters here are missing the bigger point. Metal theft is becoming a major issue in Oregon. I’ve seen schools and other facilities shut down, due to the theft of copper and other metals from their facilities. The State law is only trying to address this issue, not attack cyclists. Yes, there is an unintended consequence, which was unfair in this instance. It would be great if cyclists used their energy to help deal with a societal problem (i.e. metal theft) than just focus on me me me

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    • 9watts December 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      “It would be great if cyclists used their energy to help deal with a societal problem…”
      Do you have any specific suggestions?

      I didn’t take Chris’s time-wasting frustration at Bob’s or the subsequent article here or people’s comments to be me-me-me, but rather attempts to make sense of a predictable but pointless misinterpretation of a law, that like many laws was written to deal with a real problem, but then leads to or facilitates mischief of a different sort.

      FWIW, I think Chris (make fuss, talk to representative), Jonathan (write article), and Mark & paul g. (read statute carefully) are all being constructive.

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      • wsbob December 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm

        “…predictable but pointless misinterpretation of a law, that like many laws was written to deal with a real problem, but then leads to or facilitates mischief of a different sort. …” 9watts

        9watts, I don’t know that it’s happened intentionally on your part, or for some other reason, but your remarks suggest you’ve concluded the staff at Bob’s Metals deliberately misinterpreted the law so they…for what reason, I don’t think you’ve made clear…could create mischief for anyone bringing in by bike, metal scrap for sale.

        I read nothing in the account of the incident given by Chris Sanderson/Builder By Bike, or in the story written by bikeportland’s editor-publisher, indicating that Bob’s Metals deliberately misinterpreted the law or sought to cause mischief for Chris Sanderson on his bike.

        So far, it sounds to be an innocent misunderstanding of the law on the part of the staff at Bob’s Metals. I’d say, let the staff sort it out, maybe invite them to offer further words of explanation to this site before further running them through the ringer, insinuating they’ve unfairly discriminated, when there’s really no indication to indicate they have discriminated unfairly.

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        • wsbob December 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm

          “…when there’s really no indication to indicate they have discriminated unfairly.” wsbob

          At least, not intentionally so.

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        • 9watts December 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm

          It may have been innocent–I don’t think my remarks suggest a judgment about that–but given that the law appears to be written to allow people not in motorized vehicles to present plenty of other adequate ID and sell their scrap metal, my point was that this sort of discrimination has an element of predictability to it (we’ve seen this sort of thing plenty of times before).
          I didn’t mean to suggest intentionality. But I’m also not sure I’d excuse this too quickly in light of the wording of the statute. Where does the responsibility of Bob’s and others’ lie to interpret the language carefully, not let their biases about those on bikes cloud their judgments.

          The risk of course is that in championing Chris’s case we risk overlooking the plight of the honest fellow who transports his scrap metal to Bob’s by bike but doesn’t have a contractor’s license. Why should he be required to tape a cordless drill to his bike?

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          • wsbob December 2, 2012 at 12:51 am

            “…Where does the responsibility of Bob’s and others’ lie to interpret the language carefully, not let their biases about those on bikes cloud their judgments. …” 9watts

            It’s the responsibility of Bob’s Metal and any other dealers in scrap metal in Oregon, to read the law carefully and make sure they understand and interpret it correctly.

            As those of us who have read the law in question might agree: it’s complicated and a bit of a challenge to sort out what it specifies. Maybe the staff there didn’t work quite as hard as is needed to carefully read and understand the law. Before presuming that demands of them must be made to get them to understand what’s happened here, a little patient assistance offered to them could clear things up.

            Reading about the incident here, it seems rather clear Bob’s Metal has made a mistake. To what degree that has to do with a possible bias on their part against people on bikes, that is if they even are biased…rather than let’s say: ‘wary’ of people on bikes coming in to sell scrap metal, because of past, bad experiences with certain of the same…remains to be seen.

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      • Steve Scarich December 2, 2012 at 8:12 am

        Since almost all cyclists also own a car, how about handing the facility a photocopy of your car registration for their records?

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        • 9watts December 2, 2012 at 8:21 am

          Are you serious?
          That is worse than the law is written right now–exactly the kind of pointless discrimination we’re trying to get away from.

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    • Pete December 2, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      So if Chris switches to driving a truck to take his metal to the yard, metal theft will go down??

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  • TheCowabungaDude December 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Sounds like we need to start bicycle licensing again…

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  • esther c December 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Washington state has had strict laws on metal recycling since 2007 and it has cut down on metal theft. It was very frustrating for people in Vancouver though when the thieves could just drive or ride across the bridge and sell their stolen goods in OR. Its about time there was a crackdown. One method that WA used that’s been very effective is the mailing of checks or holding them for 10 days vs handing over cash.

    Valuable artwork has been stolen and cut up and sold as scrap. The statue of Sacagawea from a park on the WA coast and a private home here in Portland are two examples.

    I have had a vacation home broken into and found thousands of dollars worth of my personal possessions for sale at the local 2nd hand sporting goods shop. And I was not the first person by any means to find my stuff there after a robbery. I was fortunately able to identify it and get regain all that he hadn’t sold yet. But why he thought the 19 year old town crack head would have 2 avalanche transceivers and all that other nice equipment to sell is a mystery to me.

    We are all aware that there is a subculture of petty thieves that use bikes as their transportation. That’s one reason bikes get stolen so much.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean cyclists shouldn’t be allowed to recycle metal. But there does need to be verification for recycling just like there is for pawn shops. The law requiring a motorized vehicle is poorly written. Perhaps 2 valid forms of ID. An ID and business license. How about no 2nd ID, they hold your check for 10 days.

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  • AdamG December 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I just got back from Bobs metals; after talking to 4 different employees, they refused to buy my scrap metal, because it arrived by non-motorized vehicle, the manager is supposed to write up and send me a written policy on the matter.

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    • 9watts December 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      I assume you quoted them the law, pointing out the ‘if any’ clause? What did they say in response?

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      • AdamG December 4, 2012 at 4:37 pm

        That this ‘article was incorrect’ about the legality, it is just their policy.

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        • 9watts December 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm

          Bull Connor made essentially the same argument. Nice.

          Time to find another scrap buyer.

          Thanks for the reconnaissance, AdamG.

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    • james December 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      adamg… I was there I think when you were talking to the guy in the non-ferrous side of the yard….. thank you for the scrap you gave me by the way ;) He was pretty cool with you about the whole thing.. I think you spouting out the law like you did before he could say anything might have been a little extreme and rude the way you kept shutting him down not letting him talk. At that point the sign they have in there “right to refuse service to anyone” came into play. So first impression, I would have turned you away as well. Would they have taken your scrap if you had acted differently? Who’s to say now. maybe you aught to post their policy on here when you get it… sounds like the place is just trying to run a legit business..

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      • AdamG December 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        I had already been denied service by the man you saw me talking to before saying anything. He shared a story about having to turn away a woman, with cans, on foot from vancouver in the rain due to the vehicle policy.

        No one pointed out (or referenced) the ‘right to refuse service to anyone’ sign/policy while I was there, only a motorized vehicle requirement.

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  • JAMES December 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

    you werent denied service at all before you spat out your laws. you immediately went on the offensive with your law venom you spit at him while holding up the line for the customers. I am an avid bicyclist in portland myself and if they want to turn me away for riding in I will chalk it up. maybe come in with a positive attitude and talk with these people…… ASK if they might change their policy to better accomodate the growing bicycle population. this “discussion forum” has turned into an all out bash on this place…. Work with them and maybe they will work with you. Adamg, think about what happened clearly before you write it on here….. I was right next to you from the point you walked in until he sent you to the office.

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  • Rol December 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    It made the DJC

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    • 9watts December 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Rol,
      thanks for that discover. For those of us who can’t see past the paywall can you tell us what it says?

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