Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Bikes and the bad-for-business rap

Posted by on October 14th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

commuter corridor on N. Williams-1

For some businesses, like this one
on N. Williams, bike access is a boon.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Despite the many strides bicycles have made in cities across America, one criticism they haven’t been able to completely shake is that they’re bad for business. And, in an economic climate like we’re in today, that’s a serious accusation.

As long as cities have been planning for bicycle traffic, business owners have complained that bike lanes, bike parking, and other bike-related facilities hurt their business. The thinking goes like this: Car access equals business success. Do anything to decrease that access — like remove car parking, narrow or remove car lanes for bikeways, or install traffic calming measures like medians or speed bumps — and the result is less business.

However, there are recent academic and real life examples that seem to prove that bike access is good for business.

A study based in Toronto and published by the Clean Air Partnership in February found that the removal of car parking and installation of a bike lane did not negatively impact merchants. The executive summary of that study stated:

“The spending habits of cyclists and pedestrians, their relatively high travel mode share, and the minimal impact on parking all demonstrate that merchants in this area are unlikely to be negatively affected by reallocating on‐street parking space to a bike lane. On the contrary, this change will likely increase commercial activity.”

On-street bike parking downtown-13.jpg

Bike parking in front of
a restaurant downtown.

Another sign that improved bike access can be good for business is the overwhelming demand the City has received for on-street bike parking. Scores of business owners are eager for the City to remove car parking spaces (which would have been unheard of just a few years ago) to install an on-street bike corral which can fit 14-20 bicycles in the same space.

But, despite these examples, the thinking that “bikes are bad for business” persists.

When the City of Portland released the Public Comment Draft of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 last week, it sparked one local TV station to highlight those concerns.

In their story, Businesses fear city bike plan might drive people away, KATU interviewed downtown business owners who have concerns that the City’s plans would hurt their business.

One business owner told KATU that “I like that it’s a bike-friendly city, but I also want it to be a city that’s friendly for businesses as well”. Another business owner said the bike plan “reaffirms their decision” to move out of downtown because their customers have been complaining about a “lack of parking, gridlock, and construction”.

These concerns are not new. A quick look at archives of The Oregonian from when the City released their previous bike master plan in 1996 turns up similar fears.

Michael’s Deli on SE Sandy.

One public relations hurdle for the City’s bike program back in 1996 was caused by a man named Michael Zokoych, owner of Michael’s Italian Beef & Sausage Co. Zokoych was vehemently opposed to the bike program’s proposal to stripe a bike lane in front of his deli on SE Sandy Boulevard between Ankeny and Burnside.

Here’s a snip featuring a quote from Zokoych from an article published in The Oregonian on January 8th, 1996:

“The people on the bike program here have been fanatical about throwing bike lanes down based on greed instead of statistical analysis,” he said. “They’ve been slapping down bike lanes on a street without any analysis of whether the street needs a bike lane.”

He also questioned whether the city was paying too much attention to the concerns of cyclists and not enough to the needs of businesses on the east side.

The City worked with Zokoych and helped him organize a town hall meeting to discuss the issue. In the end, the bike lane was installed.

Mia Birk was bike program manager back in 1996 and she’s now Co-Chair of the Master Plan’s Steering Committee. I asked her if any of the business community’s fears back then came to fruition.

“None of the fears from the 1996 plan were realized. Every single place we’ve put in bike lanes, the businesses have not been hurt. In fact, they’ve helped with a lot of other problems and have helped create safer streets.*”

(Birk is likely thinking of recent statistical analysis by PBOT showing that as bike ridership has increased, the roads have become safer for all users, not just people on bicycles.)

But that’s not the picture Zokoych paints. I spoke with him on the phone yesterday to ask him about his stance on the City’s bike plans in 1996 and whether or not he still felt the same way. He does.

Have your fears about the bike lane been realized? “Yes they have been realized,” he replied, “They are severely interrupting traffic, causing major havoc for drivers, exacerbating belligerence between bicyclists and car drivers.”

Zokoych thinks the City’s focus on increasing bike use is contributing to animosity between bikes and cars.

“The bicyclists have been empowered by a general drift from the city to embrace a very empowering type of belligerence that is rude to car drivers and pedestrians both. They also don’t ride properly on the bike lanes… it’s created a pretty dangerous situation.”

When I asked Zokoych if, given his feelings about people who ride bikes, whether he feels that encouraging bicycle riding is a good thing for our city he said “Yes. But how they implement it is another story.” Zokoych favors completely separate facilities and streets for bikes, instead of “co-mingling bikes and cars” which he feels only creates “animosity between groups of people”.

Zokoych added that he has “very, very few” customers who arrive by bike. When asked if he had any bike parking, Zokoych said no. “The City wanted to put the racks right in front of my door, but I didn’t want them there. I said, ‘we have a place about 40 feet away that works much better’, but they refused, so now I have none.”

Birk, who parlayed her work in building Portland’s bike network in the ’90s into a successful career as a planning consultant, said she thinks some business owners will just always be afraid of change. “It’s just fear of the unknown. We understand that it is challenging for a business owner when things change, but the things we’re proposing have been proven to be successful, not just in the city of Portland but all over the world. That’s what we’re basing this plan on.”

As we transition from a car-centric city to a city that prioritizes active transportation, there will be some growing pains. Businesses thrive on pleasant and comfortable streets, where people have enough space to linger and enjoy stores in a comfortable and relaxing environment (see The Grove in Los Angeles). But, as long as there are business owners who don’t have a large number of customers who arrive by bike, concerns will remain.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Allan October 14, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I can see some businesses thinking its bad for them, especially those that generally sell big items like furniture that are hard to carry on a bike. Eateries should be helped, I imagine because the money spent on car maintenance is money that can be spent on going out more instead of eating in…

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  • Tony Fuentes October 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I would love to see some energy devoted to a new post with this title:

    “Businesses and the businesses-think-bikes-are-bad rap”

    When my wife and I opened our doors back in 2004, we contacted the city and requested bike parking in our area. They responded with a couple of sidewalk staples back then and have added more staples in that area since then.

    Five years later, we are talking with the city about placing two bike corrals in our little business area (Fox Chase) since the staples in our area are often full.

    Every business owner I have spoken to about the placement of these corrals is enthusiastic about it, namely because they feel it will well serve the needs of their existing customers as well as provide the opportunity for more customers.

    In other words, my wife and I aren’t unique in this town.

    Requests like ours to the city for bike parking and other facilities for bike and peds (like the crosswalk across Killingsworth at 30th that wasn’t in our area when we opened) keeps the folks in PBOT very, very busy.

    If anything the problem is not reluctant business owners but the same ole saw that we read here every week:

    There aren’t enough resources being earmarked for bike and ped infrastructure and improvments to meet demand.

    If there are businesses out there who don’t want the bike and ped infrastructure being offered to them by the city, there are PLENTY more ready to take it off their hands.

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  • Caroline October 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I hope Zokoych changes his mind someday – that’s a long time to hold a grudge about someone painting a line on the cement outside your place of business. I happen to cycle that strip outside his business a lot – much more than I ever plan on spending cash inside. One can’t blame a blah location and poor parking on development aimed to protect a growing division of the city – I don’t follow. All businesses along Sandy suffer from lack of parking and poor visibility due to the diagonal trajectory of the street through a grid system. Anyway, it’s not like they put a bike corral outside his wiener joint. It could be worse, Zokoych!

    Personally I think the Sandy Project was a planning catastrophe, what with installing medians, more pointless signals, and making a straight street curvy. I have lived just off of Sandy since 1995 and watched the whole thing, flabbergasted. I went to two planning meetings and noted it was hugely driven by business interests (which seemed good at the time). After all that construction, the section south of Burnside is the only section with a bike lane (aside from several meters of lane at 37th Avenue, where someone died on her bike trying to cross at a green light with traffic). That is a tragedy. ALL of Sandy should have a bike lane. What happened there? The Sandy Project sent a clear message: CARS ONLY. It is a highway, right? So, essentially Zokoych got what he wanted, just not in the few blocks in front of his business. That’s not fair!!

    A curvy road with trees and stops seemed intended to get people to slow down and look around. It seems more likely that people are going to go the same speed (the limits were changed 5mph at most) and accidentally run off course more often as the street unexpectedly stops and turns. I just ride my bike on the side of the street and pray I don’t get hit. I hope that’s OK with Zokoych. (Sandy is the quickest way from NE to SE, and I do pay my taxes.)

    Obvious thick white painted lines are not borders or fences, they are guidelines. This isn’t a territorial war, people! It’s organized sharing in order to save lives!


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  • Dave October 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    …not to mention people walking or on bikes can see or smell a restaurant and just decide spur of the moment to go in.

    Same thing with boutiques, kitchen stores, grocery, coffee shops, very nearly any kind of shop is benefited by having excellent pedestrian and bike access, and by promoting the area they are in to attract pedestrians and bicycles.

    People in cars have to intend to come to you for you to get their business, pedestrians and cyclists can make up spontaneous business.

    I live very close to Mr. Zokoych’s shop, and I’ve lived on the East side for years now, and I’ve never seen any kind of major altercation, animosity or rudeness either from cyclist to driver or vice versa. Sure, the occasional car buzzes a bit close and the cyclist shouts, or the cyclist cuts off a motorist and they honk or whatever, but that’s just traffic. People in cars honk at each other all the time too.

    It’s interesting to look at countries like Denmark and The Netherlands, who were about where we are now 40 years ago, having the same arguments as they tried to promote cycling, and now in general most people agree that the switch in mode shares that they have seen has only helped businesses, and certainly hasn’t harmed them.

    We will have growing pains, but in hindsight, I think we’ll be happy about promoting active transportation. Look at waterfront park. Who would say now that removing that highway was a bad idea?

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  • huey lewis October 14, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    hey, i hear Michael’s is hiring…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) October 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm


    I didn’t put it in the story, but I did mention to Zokoych that his business isn’t exactly located on a nice bikeway.. and that I could understand why he has seen some less-than great bike/car interactions.

    Given his personal perspective, combined with the pretty horrible intersections for bikes right outside his door, it’s easy to understand some of his concerns.

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  • Bob G October 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Bike parking is a must if I am to visit any place of business. I recently visited Saraveza on N Killingsworth and found there was no bike parking/staples, etc around. I almost left but decided to lock my bike to the pole at the bus stop (probably making my bike in the way). I spoke to the owner and she said her landlord doesn’t want a bike corral. Pretty sad.
    The bike parking needs to be near the front as well so that I can “keep an eye on it”. Laurelwood’s (51st/NE Sandy)bike rack is on a side street around the corner from the front door. So I don’t go there if I am on my bike.
    Someday, I hope, people will realize “it’s better to get there by bike”.

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  • huey lewis October 14, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    #3 that’s funny because i think sandy is so much more pleasant now. i used to live on sandy in 1999 and didn’t ride on it then, just as i still don’t now. not to say i haven’t however. i totally have. but as a pedestrian, it’s altogether different, crossing sandy now is so much less like playing russian roulette than it was. and if nothing else it looks *way* nicer

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  • peejay October 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I go to Michael’s now and then, and I always wondered about the lack of bike parking there. I would say rather than boycott a business like that, bicyclists should make themselves conspicuous when doing business with “bike unfriendly” stores. Remind the employees that you came by bike, and if you’re made uncomfortable, you can go elsewhere where your money might be more appreciated. I don’t think it’s worth it to start a pissing match. It’s better to get people to realize that, whatever radio station they listen to, they can make a lot of money off us, if they make a small effort to accomodate us.

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  • Caroline October 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I can see his point of view, but still… thank God that bike lane is there where it is! It’s not the bike lane causing the trouble. It’s the trouble causing the trouble! Gotcha.

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  • Nick V October 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Jonathan raises a good point above (#6). I go out of my way to avoid Sandy regardless of whether I’m driving or biking.

    I would think that given the mentality of a growing number of people in Portland, bike parking outside one’s business could only be seen as a good thing (unless you own a furniture store or similar as someone else noted). The people who complain about it have the same lazy and increasingly selfish attitude that has put our society and physical environment in its current predicament.

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  • nuovorecord October 14, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Maybe peejay is onto something. Maybe we should “reverse boycott” Michael’s and maybe he’ll begin to change his thinking about how cyclists are “rude and belligerent?” Dialog is better than isolation, no?

    And, his sandwiches are pretty good, actually.

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  • KruckyBoy October 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I never even noticed Michael’s when I used to drive my car by there everyday. It blended in with the scenery. It wasn’t until I was on my bike that I noticed it was there. That doesn’t negate Zokoych’s opinion, but I hope he can see the bike lane there is not all bad.

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  • Marcus Griffith October 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Where exactly is the bike vs car war taking place? Other than The O’s opinion-stated-as-news articles and some over played rants of xenophobes who tend to meet the DSM-IV criteria for Delusional Disorder, I see no evidence of any open hostilities between the average motorist and the average cyclists. Of course, there the ever present outliners–a select few of motorists and a select few cyclists–that cause a disproportionate amount of issues, but those people tend to be walking epitomes of the third derivative of their position, regardless of the transportation method that got them to that position.

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  • Kate October 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I second KruckyBoy (#11). Because of that bike lane, I now notice Michael’s every single day as I bike by it. I’ll probably never become a customer, though, because my version of a healthy lifestyle does not include “fast, hot” beef and sausage. Were he to begin selling bike tubes, produce, and “fast, hot” coffee, though, I’d be in there in a heartbeat… as long as I could find a place to park my bike first.

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  • encephalopath October 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    “They also don’t ride properly on the bike lanes… it’s created a pretty dangerous situation”

    What does Mr. Zokoych mean by this? I would know, specifically, how he thinks bicycles should be using bike lanes and how he thinks bicycles aren’t using them properly.

    Most of the time when I see that kind of statement, the people making the statement don’t know anything about what ORS 811 and 814 actually say about bicycles.

    “…bicyclists have been empowered by a general drift from the city to embrace a very empowering type of belligerence that is rude to car drivers and pedestrians both.”

    If by that he mean that bicycles are occupying the roadway space the law permits them rather that allowing themselves to be pushed to the margins, I’m not sure how it’s a bad thing.

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  • Joe October 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    fear of a bike planet! it seems.

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  • bohemiangirlpdx October 14, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I pass Michael’s when I commute to work by bike. I’m sure I drove past it many times, too, but when I started biking, I noticed that it was a restaurant (which intrigued me), not just a meat and sausage vendor (which, as a vegetarian, did not). Personally, I’m in favor of the reverse boycott–making it obvious that I am a cyclist and letting the owner know that I discovered his shop/restaurant because I biked there. I find that even when I’m driving, I tend to notice more interesting shops on streets more heavily traveled by bikes because the traffic slows down a bit and I see more.

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  • TTse
    TTse October 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I think I was in Portland for 8 years before I realized that Zokoych’s sandwich shop was a retail establishment. Its location and look more resemble some sort of wholesale place. I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who thinks that.

    It might behove Zokoych to channel some of his negative energy into changing the shop’s look, and – take a deep breath – reconsidering his veto of the bike parking location.

    One of the things in favor of bike parking located near the entrance is that one, it’s considerate (which as a potential customer I tend to like, imagine that) and two, people can see at a glance when there are people patronizing your shop. If years ago I had seen bikes locked up outside his shop, I might have actually noticed the place much earlier and my curiosity might have been piqued. Now knowing his attitude, I’ll likely never set foot in the place.

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  • peejay October 14, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Let’s organize a Bike-to-Michael’s event, and fill his shop with cyclists (the non-vegetarians, that is). We could pyramid our bikes in front, keep our helmets on the whole time, and be super polite and super generous with our tips. Maybe we can get to work with some crayons and do one of those kid-art thank-you letters he likes to post inside. I think we can turn this guy!

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  • BURR October 14, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Zokoych is probably right about having few customers arrive by bike. I personally have been boycotting his business ever since 1996 precisely because of his over-the-top anti-bike agenda.

    Same with SE Hawthorne Blvd., I rarely patronize any businesses there precisely because they were so strongly opposed to bike lanes on the boulevard in the late 90s, when the Hawthorne Blvd. transportation plan was being developed.

    OTOH, I will gladly patronize businesses that go out of their way to attract cyclists by requesting bike parking corrals in front of their establishments.

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  • Dave October 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    They’re kidding–right? It’s a deterrent to business to have NOTHING but car access. Every large Northwestern city has insufficient car parking, and geography (surrounded by hills, on the banks of rivers, etc.) that limits pavable area. Too much car access, they should figure out, is truly what’s bad for business.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) October 14, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    hey peejay (#20),

    I’m all for a Bike to Michael’s event! I’ll help promote it on the site if you’re willing to be the point person on it.

    I have to say that Zokoych is an OK guy. He said a lot of over-the-top mean stuff during our conversation that I didn’t publish… but I know that he’s reasonable and I’m sure if I had more time on the phone or met him in person he’d be an ally of anything that improved the community.

    on that note, he does actively work in the n’hood to make it a better place… for example he personally maintains the median out in front of his business.

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  • RyNO Dan October 14, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    The “best and brightest” economists in the world were unable to predict and divert the current great recession. So many were demonstrably wrong, it’s amazing. The nobel prize for economics should have been cancelled this year in mourning. Anyway, good luck analyzing this topic.

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  • John Thomas October 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    You know what is is bad for business?

    Being irrational, hateful, and hyperbole-spewing.

    I’d enjoy participating a ride to a bike-unfriendly business where everyone appeared with their bikes and then slowly paraded past their front edifice to patronize their nearest competitor.

    (I don’t care if the nearest competitor only serves turnip juice and jellied eel on a popsicle stick)

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  • peejay October 14, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    But he gets one chance! If he says any more crap after we customer-bomb him, we shut him down! That is, we go ahead with the boycott, which will leave him entirely reliant on motorists for all his business, which is not economically feasible these days.

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  • BURR October 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Zokoych says a lot of over-the-top mean stuff and he’s an OK guy?

    I guess I just don’t get it….


    A lot of people that were around on the bike scene back them hold Mr. Zokoych personally responsible for one of the first PPB ‘bike stings’, it was called ‘Operation Big Wheel’.

    Ask around if you don’t believe me, it happened in the SE industrial area almost immediately after the bike lane on SE 7th went in over Mr. Zokoych’s objections.

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  • BURR October 14, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    @ John #24. Actually the Club 720 recently opened just down the block and across the street from Michael’s, looks like a hip upscale bar/eatery I wouldn’t mind checking out. By bike of course!

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  • la otra October 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Mmmmmmm, jellied eel. I think that I would actually like that.

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  • peejay October 14, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Sure, Jonathan. I should research the store’s hours, and see if just maybe there isn’t something with not too much Spammeat in it on the menu, and we could do a nice short ride there, eat, be nice, and ride off to get a beer somewhere (I don’t think they have booze there). Let’s make this an educational outreach kinda thing.

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  • Bjorn October 14, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    #3 your post about the lack of bike lanes on Sandy brings up in my mind something I have noticed over the years while riding on the street. The number one thing that slows down traffic on Sandy especially through the Hollywood district is not bikes, it isn’t buses, it isn’t even too many cars, it is people stopping their cars in the middle of the right hand travel lane and then trying to back into a spot. This stops traffic for 10-30 seconds every time it happens, causes accidents when cars and buses try to move over into the left lane suddenly to avoid the parking car and generally just causes a huge backup, and for what like 10 spots a block on each side of the street. Personally I think most businesses would be better off if they nixed the on sandy parking and put in slightly wider sidewalks, and bike lanes and nixed the parking altogether. They might even be able to add some left turn lanes that would allow cars to turn without backing up that lane. Maybe when the street car goes in some of that parking can come out.


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  • BURR October 14, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    didn’t they just put a bunch of curb extensions up and down Sandy to preserve the curb-side parking? I doubt they’re gonna take them back out so soon, those things are outrageously expensive.

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  • bikeknight October 14, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Unfortunately, for non-meat eaters, Michael’s is basically a meat establishment. Its called Michael’s Italian Beef and Sausage Company If you like meat, its delicious. They may or may not be willing to do something veggie (It’s sort of one step down from the New York “soup nazi”)and the veggies are probably cooked in beef broth. (Thats what makes them so good.)

    I have been there many times, always by bike, and have received courteous service and delicious sandwiches. They knew I arrived by bike because I had a helmet in hand and parked my bike on top of the hedge out front.

    I don’t totally agree with his politics, but I think he is allowed to strongly hold his opinion, even if he is not entirely right about bicycles and business. And I can understand how Jonathan can say he’s ok despite the hyperbole. He really is a decent guy.

    If you really want to him to reconsider his opinion, you should probably become a customer (semi-regular) go there by bike and strike up a conversation with the him.

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  • twistyaction October 14, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    @ Bob G, #7: Sarah at Saraveza managed to change her landlord’s mind, and I hear that they will indeed be getting a bike corral at some point. Good thing too, ’cause I’ve definitely turned away from going in there after a 7 mile ride specifically to visit Saraveza when I saw there was no secure bike parking within view of the business.

    @ BURR, #27: “Club 720”, actually a very nice bar called Beaker & Flask, unfortunately has one, very small bike rack in their parking lot. It has room for at most 3 bikes, and one spot is usually taken up by an employee’s bike. I’d love to see a bigger rack (don’t know why they bothered to install such a small one) and for the owners to offer for their employee to bring his bike inside, for its protection and to accommodate more customer bike parking.

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  • jacque October 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    “Another business owner said the bike plan “reaffirms their decision” to move out of downtown because their customers have been complaining about a “lack of parking, gridlock, and construction”.”

    What in the world does a lack of parking, gridlock, and construction have to do with bikes? It sounds like the problem is too many cars, and, um, isn’t the bike plan supposed to increase bike traffic and decrease car traffic? So… what’s the problem exactly?

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  • becky October 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I’ve boycotted Michael’s for quite a few years now because I saw him verbally abusing his young employees one too many times.

    Of course, he’s semi-famous for being an ass to his employees, so maybe it’s just part of his shtick now.

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  • Steven Vance October 14, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    I don’t blame the Portland Bureau of Transportation for declining to install bike racks “40 feet away in a better place.”

    The best place is as close to the entrance as possible. Assuming the “40 feet away” quote represents the distance from the entrance to the business owner’s ideal location, that’s too far. Bicyclists rarely use bike racks that far and will choose less secure, but more convenient objects to which they will lock (including any exposed gas pipes or street furniture).

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  • Lazy Spinner October 14, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I’m not sure what I find more troubling in this article: A business owner bent out of shape about bikes based on stereotypes or how local bike riders immediately grab pitchforks and torches whenever someone isn’t 100% down with bikes?

    Both sides have some growing up to do.

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  • joe adamski October 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    As for boycotting or reverse boycotting Micheals.. fuggetaboutit! Responding in any way will prove nothing, and could lead to either verbal tension or high chlorestoral. The true proof in the pudding is the huge backlog of requests PBOT has for bike parking around the City. Initially, there was some reluctance from businesses about corrals, but strategically placed corrals and staples are recognized as a huge benefit for the businesses close by.

    The relatively small amount of investment in facilities reaps huge benefits for the larger community. Of course we can cite Joe Cortrights (sp?) assertion that any dollar that doesn’t go to Exxon and stays home does more for the community than any gas station could. Recently, a Danish study suggests that every mile ridden is equivelent to a $10 health care savings. What about the cost of compliance with EPA clean air standards? Just not driving one day a week would be worth millions to the region. We could go on a long time with all the benefits. I would be preaching to the choir. I just am not inclined to let one opposing view decide my feelings about the bike movement in general. I don’t generally read the comments on Oregonlive stories either. The same chorus of idiots could look perfection straight in the eye and spend hours trying to manufacture a flaw.

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  • Bill October 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Im like others here. I never even realized Michael’s existed before riding my bike along that street one day.

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  • BURR October 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    re. #28, it’s the Beaker and Flask in the 720 building (SE 7th and Washington).

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  • chrehn October 14, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Would it help if businesses put a bike-friendly sign/symbol in their window to encourage bicyclist’s to spend money there. Why spend our money at M. Zokoych’s business if we aggravate him so much?

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  • BURR October 14, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    re. #35, there is plenty of ‘structured’ car parking in underground parking garages in the downtown core. Ever since ODEQ lifted the ‘parking lid’ due to air quality concerns, every new commercial building built downtown has included underground car parking galore, even the so-called ‘green’ buildings built by Gerding and Edlen in the Brewery Blocks. Cyclists had to fight for adequate bike parking at the Whole Foods there when it first opened.

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  • ME 2 October 14, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Jonathan, I’m surprised you didn’t link the Willy Week story that mentions 50 businesses (not sure if all are downtown or not) have requests for bike parking with the city.

    I also found great irony from the quote of the shop employee on NW 23. My wife and I used to go there all the time, but we got fed up with all the gridlock and congestion. I’ll never go back there in a car, but a place to park my bike would probably entice me to return.

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  • JR October 14, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I disagree that businesses that sell large items should not welcome bike infrastructure. I don’t go furniture shopping and expect to carry a couch home in a car or truck. I shop and have it delivered. Most everything I buy can fit on my bike; everything else, I expect to have it delivered. If a business doesn’t provide delivery, then I’ll consider coming back with a rental truck, but most places offer delivery, perhaps at a small charge.

    Lots of old farts wish it was still 1955, but the rest of the world has moved on, and so should they.. or die in the past..

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  • poncho October 14, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    i went to michaels 6 months ago. it was a bunch of angry old men standing around ranting after presumably listening to too much lars larson. i was probably the first person under 60 to go in this place in years. i’m sure if you walk in (from the parking lot of course) and complain about some city policy or parking, you’ll get great service. nothing says teabagger hang out more than this place.

    it doesnt take much to welcome bikes, just a $100 bike rack in some small unused space in the parking lot. if a business with the amenity of a parking lot wont buy a cheap bike rack to squeeze in the corner, bikers might want to look elsewhere. i’ve been to some pretty old time blue collar saloons with big parking lots and they make the effort for a few potential bike customers.

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  • TVcommuter October 15, 2009 at 12:36 am

    It’s hard to understand the mindset of Mr Zokoych (and similar business owners). A few resistant business owners will not change the dynamic of increasing bike ridership in PDX. A good business owner knows to take advantage of change; a bad owner ignores or resists change (and either goes out of business or at least misses opportunity). Zokoych’s public stance against bicyling *in Portland* is not in any way helping his business.

    100 years ago the primary road users were bicycle and horse/buggy riders and they had the same issue with the influx of fast & reckless car drivers. Over time the infrastructure developed and cars became (somewhat!)safer. But how many businesses are around that chose to avoid placement near a paved road?

    In Portland I suspect few businesses owners actually believe “bikes are bad for business” -the few that do are likely using it as a media talking point for their unrelated & misguided personal/political agenda.

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 15, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Jonathan, beyond talking about bike/ped/car interactions he’s witnessed near his shop, was Zokoych also saying his business was down? If so, was he blaming the downturn on bikes, and bike infrastructure?

    Even with a bike lane out front, it seems like his business remains supremely accessible to cars. It’s a three-sided lot, that appears (on Google maps) to offer access to ample parking via entrances on all three sides. Two of those sides open to roads with lots of fast-moving car traffic.

    If the average business owner assumes that car access is the key to success, this location would seem to be the ideal place to test that assumption.

    If his business is off, I wonder how much of that might simply have to do with it being an old-fashioned purveyor of meaty eatin’ very near what could be the geographic center of Portland’s vegan culture. A few blocks away you’ve got veggie- and vegan-friendly joints like Hungry Tiger Too, Food Fight, Sweet Pea, and Red and Black Cafe. I think they’re all relative newcomers to the neighborhood, and I’m guessing they’re clustered in that location because that’s where their customers are.

    I wonder how those vegan-friendly businesses are doing in comparison?

    However they’re doing, it’s probably not going out on a limb to bet they’re all bike-friendly.

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  • TTse
    TTse October 15, 2009 at 4:22 am

    I’m all for reaching out, but why in this hard economic times, when there are many PRO-bike businesses out there, would we create an event to channel money to this guy?

    I’m with BURR. “He said a lot of over-the-top mean stuff during our conversation that I didn’t publish”? Why not? If you’re intentionally publishing only portions of the interview to the detriment of accuracy as to the guy’s attitude, I’m more than a little disappointed. You are actively biasing the reality of the situation.

    This guy’s anti-bike views are well entrenched, documented and I’d bet money, not likely to change. Add to that his apparent ill-treatment of his employees and you’ve just got a jerk. Plain and simple.

    I’m as much of a bike evangelist as the next person, but really, you folks have to get over yourself. NOT everybody will like us. It’s not just a matter of perception. THEY don’t like us. Bikes and “events” and cello players can’t cure everything. It’s okay. Accept it and move on.

    Spend your money at businesses that get it.

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  • peejay October 15, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Actually, in 1955, it was probably easier to get stuff delivered. People had big cars, but they didn’t haul stuff in them. And nobody would admit to driving a truck.

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  • Valkraider October 15, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Zokoych is a real **deleted**. Although I bet BikePortland will edit out my comment, or at least sensor the word (which is also a famous title of a Steve Martin movie: starts with J ends with erk…)

    I stopped eating there back in 2002 or so, when he was on a jihad against teachers. He actually had a wall-sized sign up complaining about teachers. And when we would discuss it all he would do is repeat the exact same lies over and over.

    The description above in a comment about the place being full of old men who listen to too much Lars Larson…

    Also, like other commentors, I never knew the place was a restaurant until I *walked* by. I had passed by car and it just didn’t look like a restaurant to me… Additionally, itsits on one of the cities crappiest intersection areas (which will be fixed somewat with the burnside couch couplet).

    I don’t eat at Zokoych’s place. If I want sausage I go to Otto’s in Woodstock or Edleveiss in Brooklyn or any number of fine meat purveyors around the city….

    I think that Jonathon had misrepresented Zokoych as a reasonable guy, when he is really not… And it has nothing to do with bikes.

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  • Diogo October 15, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Limiting car access may hurt some business, but the majority of them tend to benefit if it increases trafic of a slower speed (bikes, pedestrians), which is more conducive for attracting new customers who were just passing by.

    There’s a true story about car-free streets that illustrates this unfounded resistance against change. In Brazil,in a city that is famous for urban planning and public transportation: Curitiba. Back in 72 the mayor wanted to turn a few blocks of a main avenue in downtown into a car-free zone. Predictably, local businesses were opposed. But, since at the time the country was under an authoritarian regime, the mayor was empowered to ignore their concerns and impose his will, so he commissioned a construction company who could do the job while shopowners were not around. The feat would be to do all street work necessary during a single weekend (at that time, every business would close during weekends). So the crews came in secret Friday evening after business hours, when shopowners were back Monday morning, the street had been turned into a big sidewalk with flowerpots and benches.
    In a matter of weeks, the plan proved to be a success – the increased foot trafic was good for business and soon businesses near by where the street had not been affected began to complain that they too wanted their street to be car-free. So in the following months the entire avenue was closed for cars, it remains so to this day.

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  • J. Free October 15, 2009 at 8:58 am

    @BURR (#20):
    You’ve raised a point that intrigues me. I don’t like putting my money into businesses whose politics are in conflict with my own. Regarding your comment about Hawthorne, I’d be interested in knowing which businesses were so adamantly opposed to bike lanes.

    Was there a reason given for the City’s refusal to place bike parking in the location that Zokoych had suggested? I agree with others that it would more effective near the front of the business, but I’m curious why the alternate location was denied.

    RE: Michael’s:
    Frankly, I’m disappointed to hear about Zokoych’s history of nay-saying anything to do with bikes, as related here in both the article as well as some of the comments. Ironically, I’ve been hoping to find a decent local meat shop/deli since I moved to Portland, and although that hasn’t been a priority, I now find that what might have otherwise been a perfectly good candidate for getting some of my money, turns out to be the kind of business I would prefer not to patronize.

    General comment:
    When my wife and I first moved to Portland, we didn’t learn very much about the local shops, etc, when we were in a car. You’re in traffic, and there’s a limited amount of time to actually notice anything around you, since you really need to keep your eyes on the road. My wide does all the driving, since I stopped driving ten years ago, and even as a passenger, I found that I still missed quite a bit of what was around us while in a car. It was also a tough way to get the hang of the street grid.

    Once we settled in the city a bit and started bicycling more, we started discovering a lot of terrific businesses, as well as the general layout of the streets. So, I guess I don’t personally see that cars are that crucial to the success of most businesses. From my perspective, the opposite would be true.

    I also have to admit that I don’t personally need to have my bike parked right in front of a business in order to patronize it. Somewhere in the general vicinity is fine for me, since I’m often going to several places when I’m out, and I generally try to find one parking spot that is central to all of them.

    I guess we all have a lot of different opinions about things.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) October 15, 2009 at 9:07 am

    TTse wrote:

    f you’re intentionally publishing only portions of the interview to the detriment of accuracy as to the guy’s attitude, I’m more than a little disappointed. You are actively biasing the reality of the situation.

    and then valkraider wrote:

    I think that Jonathon had misrepresented Zokoych as a reasonable guy, when he is really not… And it has nothing to do with bikes.

    Thanks for that feedback. My job requires a lot of judgement about what to publish and what not to publish. Surely you don’t think reporters publish every word someone says do you?

    As for whether or not I chose things in a way to misrepresent Zokoych. That is not the case.

    I made the judgment that his over-the-top rantings were basically emotional outbursts that would have gotten away from the focus of my story and would paint him as someone that he really isn’t. Ask yourself, is it better to share every single one of someone’s feelings on an emotional topic taken from a 15 minute phone interview… or to share how they would feel after a one-hour, sit down meeting (after they’ve had time to calm down and get to the root of their feelings)?

    You can disagree, that’s fine, but I think I represented Zokoych fairly and accurately given the intent of my story and the relatively brief conversation we had.

    Journalism is not a science. It’s an art.

    thanks again for the feedback.

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  • rex October 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Nice article Jonathon, following up with Zokoych really made it worth the read. If he still has a chip on his shoulder 12 years, he probably is not going to change his mind. People tend to become comfortable with there grumpiness.

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  • BURR October 15, 2009 at 9:21 am

    re #53/Hawthorne Blvd. The anti-bike facilities stance was taken collectively by the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association.

    I’m sure they had their own internal discussions on the issue and there may have been business owners on both sides of the internal debate, but I was not privy to those discussions.

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  • bruce October 15, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I don’t really want to wade through all of these comments so accept my apologies if this is already mentioned. The argument that bikes are bad for business seems to miss the point by a wide mark. I use my bike to get to work. My bike doesn’t work, I do. My bike doesn’t get paid, I do. I spend the money I make on goods and services. The very same money that the drivers of cars use. Customers arriving at the doors of businesses by any means available and convenient are good for business. Many cyclists seem hell-bent on celebrating their otherness; in some cases their superiority. This otherness, this separation between modes is a fundamental problem and holds everyone back. Bicycles are a great way for people to travel and move about to see and interact with the world. Slowing everything down is a sustainable, long term approach to economic growth.

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  • Michael M. October 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

    I’m with one (or more) of the commenter(s) above in wanting to know what was wrong with the location 40 feet away that Zokoych had suggested. I daresay if you can’t walk 40 feet, you probably also can’t ride a bike. I haven’t eaten at Michael’s in quite a while and Mr. Zokoych’s comments don’t make me anxious to return. (OTOH, the food was good, so I probably will return at some point.) It’s not a great location, in terms of easy access, for cyclists, peds, or drivers, yet it seems to do fine. But I’d agree with his point that some of the city’s decisions regarding bike infrastructure leave me scratching my head, even if I might not be annoyed about the same decisions he is annoyed about.

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  • Aka October 15, 2009 at 11:00 am

    How about relating car access with pollution?

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  • Mike October 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    He sounds stupid. People should stop interviewing him.

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  • Dave October 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I guess I will no longer be cycling over to Michael’s to eat his wonderful sandwiches. I always wondered why I had to hunt all over that place to lock my bike up.

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  • J. Free October 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    @ Dave (#61)
    It would be great if Mr. Zokoych could see comments like that! As a man concerned with what is good for business, he may care to know that he is actually driving away potential customers. Then again, he may not care, but it couldn’t hurt to plant that idea in his head – along with the idea that those of us who get around by bicycle have jobs and money to spend just like anyone else.

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  • Chris October 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I had a conversation with a coffee shop owner that although the increase in bicycle traffic is welcome that cyclist aren’t as good for morning coffee sales because they cannot drink while commuting or have cup holders. I think it’s important for these businesses to reach out to this new market. Perhaps cyclists need fully sealed cups or a coffee cup holder for the handlebars. I think its the way in which businesses approach cyclists as a new target market.

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  • J. Free October 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    @Chris (#63):

    With all due respect, that coffee shop owner sounds as though they are making excuses. Certainly they have heard of “distracted driving”. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to maintain that the strength of one’s business relies on one’s ability to juggle a coffee cup and a steering wheel at the same time.

    I plan my bicycle commutes to coincide with coffee shops all over Portland. My Targus backpack has a mesh pocket on each side, and the $20 thermal sealed mug I got at Whole Foods downtown fits in either pocket, and is accessible wherever I go. Although, I am not inclined to drink hot coffee from my thermos while bicycling, any more than I did when I used to drive an automobile ten years ago.

    Agreed, though, that businesses in general need to stop placing blame on others, and figure out how to reach out to a broader clientele. Sorry, but the economy can be hard on everyone, and we all need to take personal responsibility for how well we do (i.e., survival of the fittest).

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  • Matt Picio October 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    “Zokoych added that he has [few] customers who arrive by bike” – given how anti-bike he is, I’m not surprised. If there were no legal car parking spots within a block of his business, I’m sure he’d also have few customers who arrive by car.

    And when a business owner is anti-something, you’d better believe the people who are “something” will detect that and stop coming – even when it’s not overt.

    encephalopath (#16) – I’ll bet he’s seeing people ride outside the bike lane – which they would and should be doing if they are positioning themselves to ride south on 11th Avenue. I’d wager most of the “wrong” activity he’s seeing is just people trying to turn left legally and safely.

    TTse (#19) – I also thought it was wholesale, and I lived at 16th & Sandy for 2 years.

    Jonathan (#23) – I agree with BURR in #27 – Huh?!? If he says a lot of over-the-top mean stuff, he’s NOT a nice guy – he’s riling up those who hate bikes and giving them ammunition. He might have a nice demeanor, but that’s not nice behavior. If we said a lot of mean over-the-top things publicly about Burnside being a haven for prostitutes and crack-whores (which one could argue it was before the recent changes to lower Burnside), how would that affect Zokoych’s business? Would that be nice on our part, even if we didn’t mean it? I’m sorry, what people say has an effect on the world, and what a person does frequently carries more weight than who he is inside.

    bikeknight (#33) – He absolutely has the right to his opinion, and to voice it. I’m sure he *is* a decent guy, but he’s speaking as an active member of both the business community and the neighborhood. When you start becoming active outside yourself, you take on additional responsibilities, whether you know it or not. Blanket statements about a segment of the community at-large aren’t responsible. They aren’t nice, and in this case they’re both untrue and not helpful to the situation or to his business.

    BTW, watch “Gran Torino”. Clint Eastwood’s character is a decent guy. So is the barber. They’re also both incredible bigots (the movie got both Detroit and Minneapolis right – dead on), and say some really irresponsible things. Again, what people say has an effect on the world.

    Lazy Spinner (#38) – I’d say most of the railing going on is against the pervasive attitude in the business community rather than the owner of Michaels. I’m not sure what you mean by “both sides” – there are no sides, only people.

    JR (#45) – Amen. Even if it is big, that doesn’t mean it can’t travel by bike. For proof, look here:

    IKEA has tons of bike parking.

    Michael (#58) – I agree, although realize that we’re only hearing one side of that story and there may be valid reasons why the alternative location wouldn’t work at that time.

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  • E October 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I went to buy some sheet music not too long ago – I forget the store’s full name and actual location, but it was inner Powell or Division or someplace equally unfriendly to bikes, especially in the dark which it was at the time. I had to cross the street as a pedestrian, and that was scary enough. I arrived in their tiny parking lot and saw absolutely nothing to lock a bike to, in the lot or even on the block. I was about to give up and tell my husband to order his music online (traffic made the idea of driving there even MORE unpalatable than biking) when I saw a sign on the door… BIKES WELCOME INSIDE. Well. I parked inside the front door, where there was plenty of room; spent some time finding the music I came for and some more time just browsing; and ended up spending about $50 (a lot for me) that I wouldn’t have spent if not for that sign.

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  • BURR October 15, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    several bicycle coffee cup and thermos holders are already out there on the market

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  • TTse
    TTse October 15, 2009 at 3:09 pm


    Obviously I’m not suggesting that you should just publish the interview in its entirety. But I do think that in digesting the interview, you should do so in such a way that you retain its essence, preserving aspects of it that give us a scaled down representation of what occured. By choosing to publish what is more palatable, you are removing that which would put his objections into proper perspective.

    Let me put it this way. Let’s say you interviewed someone else who who also objected to bike parking for a variety of reasons but in the process of your conversation they said NOTHING “mean” or inflammatory.

    Now let’s put that interview next to this one. What’s the difference? Reading them, we, your audience, would have no real way of understanding the significant differences between the personalities involved and the axes that they do or don’t have to grind.

    This guy has a rather sizable anti-bike flag. Let him fly it. It may not be pretty, but it really is an important piece of the puzzle.

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  • peejay October 15, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Wow – the more I hear about this guy, the less I’m behind the “anti-boycott” idea. But, hey, maybe that’s more of a reason to do it, in some way. Sort of like: “I know you’ll never change your mind on this, but we just want to let you know that we’re not the people you think we are. And all this business is what you’re missing out on.”

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  • peejay October 15, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    By the way, Michael’s does in fact serve a choice of two different veggie sandwiches.

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  • Hart October 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    This turkey doesn’t get cycling customers because most cyclists don’t eat gross, fat, processed meat.

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  • dan October 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Whatever his personal beliefs about bicycling, Michael’s makes good sandwiches. In response to an earlier comment, they also serve beer. And in response to #71, certainly there’s processed meat afoot, and it’s probably pretty fatty, but it’s not gross at all.

    While he seems to have some anti-bike prejudices, I’ll continue coming in for a sausage now and again…it’s not like he advocated running cyclists down, he just feels the bike lanes on Sandy are ill-considered.

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  • John Reinhold October 15, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    most cyclists don’t eat gross, fat, processed meat.

    I love gross, fat, processed meat.

    Just not from Michaels…

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  • TTse
    TTse October 16, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Yuuuuuum, meat.

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  • Jackattak October 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    1) “The spending habits of cyclists and pedestrians, their relatively high travel mode share, and the minimal impact on parking all demonstrate that merchants in this area are unlikely to be negatively affected by reallocating on‐street parking space to a bike lane. On the contrary, this change will likely increase commercial activity.”

    How about next time in your study, instead of making “likely” statements filled with conjecture, you do some real research (like any good stat analyst would) and actually take the businesses’ collective net income BEFORE the bike lanes/whatever they think is “hurting” their business were put in, then compare that to how their business is doing after. Is it really that hard? I don’t even do stat analysis at work. Idiots.

    2) I will never grace Michael’s with my presence ever again. And I used to eat there often. What a douchebag.

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  • AaronF October 17, 2009 at 6:49 am

    75) If only stat analysis was this simple.

    The problem is that other things change besides just the addition of the bike lane. Like maybe the economy? The change of seasons? Also, how many months before do you average? How long after the bike lanes were put in do you wait to measure their impact on local businesses? In that time did another competitor get a favorable review in the Willy Week? All of these are going to have an impact on your data.

    This is part of why it’s hard to measure the success of an individual public relations campaign, for example. Typically rather than looking at changes in net profit they set up a formula based on several criteria to measure effectiveness.

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  • peejay October 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I didn’t realize this site was I appreciate that eating less meat is better for your health and for the environment, but there are some vegetarians who could learn to be a little less smug and righteous, and let us carnivore cyclists make our own choices.

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  • BURR October 17, 2009 at 11:50 am

    my personal favorites are the cigarette smoking vegans, lol!

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  • Amy October 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Interesting. I’ve eaten at Michael’s a handful of times, and have always arrived by bike. Now I know why I always had trouble finding bike parking.

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  • Ross October 21, 2009 at 8:25 am

    There is a road in Amsterdam, that is three kilometers long, and lined with stores, restaurants and cafes. It is a large outdoor shopping mall. Pedestrians, bicylces and streetcars travel on it all day and night, but no automobliles, because they are not allowed. I would conservatively estimate that 100 potential customers pass by every business establishment, every minute. I would like to hear Mr Zokoych, or anybody else, tell any of those businesspeople that they could increase their business if they allowed cars there, and/or created one or two parking spaces in front of their business. In fact, I think I would pay to hear that!

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  • IanO October 23, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I sometimes stop in for a sandwich on the ride home, since Michael’s is conveniently located on the elbow where Sandy turns onto Ankeny. My bike has an upright stand, so I park it right outside the door.

    I certainly would never consider driving there; this is one of the highest congestion points on Sandy, due to 1) merging two southbound lanes into one, and 2) no left turn lane to get onto the 11th street one-way corridor. It’s bad enough trying to get across Sandy at Ankeny on a bike…

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