in front of the boarded-up window smashed
by a car on April 2.
(Photo courtesy Mičetić)
The owner of a game store on SE Foster Road whose front window was destroyed this month by a speeding car also happens to be one of the most prominent backers of safety improvements to Foster Road, and also of a citywide street fund.
In fact, Matthew Mičetić of Red Castle Games was one of two small business owners that Portland leaders invited to speak at the press conference where they launched their currently paused street fund effort last spring.
He’s also head of his local business association — a group that he said surprised Portland City Council last summer when its members showed up in force to support redesigning their street to add a center turn lane and bike lanes by removing two passing lanes.
Unfortunately for Mičetić’s storefront, the redesign won’t happen until next year. That meant that when a man named Myles Nees was allegedly drunk and fleeing from police during the early evening rush hour on Foster April 2, he had enough room to veer his car from lane to lane. Mičetić said Nees reached speeds of 60 to 80 mph before losing control and running onto the sidewalk into Red Castle’s building.
“If you were on Division at 5 o’clock, you’re never going to hit 60 mph,” Mičetić said in an interview Tuesday. “Whereas Foster or Sandy, at that time you can weave around vehicles.”
Mičetić later posted his security camera’s video of the collision on YouTube, as seen from inside the store:
Mičetić praised the employee pictured here, who can be seen diving immediately for the telephone to report the crash and then dashing out the front door in pursuit of the fleeing driver.
“She was pretty shaken up later, and is still a little shaken up now when she hears brakes screeching,” he said. “But within seconds she was on 911 to report the guy.”
No one was seriously injured in the collision. Nees was arraigned Tuesday on a battery of charges related to the incident. His next court date is in May.
“It’s just sort of a hidden epidemic that’s happening all the time, and it’s not cheap,” Mičetić said. “My father used to own a 7-11 at 148th and Division, and he had the same thing happen to him when I was a kid. … I’ve Been Framed, down there at 51st and Foster, that happened to them.”
Mičetić estimated that the total cost of his storefront crash may be around $20,000, including $6,000 in lost revenue from time the shop is closed for repairs. Because Nees’ auto insurance coverage is unclear — Mičetić said a police detective told him it may have been purchased under false pretenses — Red Castle isn’t yet sure how much money it’ll be out.
He said he’s grateful for a community of customers who’ve put up 7,600 in online donations to support the store, plus made other gestures of support.
“People brought us ketchup,” he said.
Street fee needed for maintenance and safety, Mičetić says
I reached out to Mičetić for a conversation last week, after my boss Jonathan Maus saw news coverage of the storefront crash and realized that he’d met Mičetić at last spring’s street fee launch event.
“How can the need be so apparent but the will to fix it be so small? … I really hope that Commissioner Novick and Hales really keep this on their plate.”
Mičetić said his support for the street fee has always been largely financial: as a longtime Portlander, he’s watched the city’s attempts to raise money for road maintenance fail year after year, with the estimated repair bill climbing higher and higher each time.
“This is the third or fourth go-around,” he said. “I sort of did the math, back on the previous fees, of how little it would have been if we’d started back in 2002, or 2008. … Every time we talk about it again, it’s not like my monthly fee doubles. It’s like my monthly fee goes up six times! Because the infrastructure gets so much worse.”
Mičetić said he’d welcome citywide safety investments, too.
“I go over Foster and 82nd every day, and that intersection is awful. it is really really bad,” he said. “How can the need be so apparent but the will to fix it be so small? … I really hope that Commissioner Novick and Hales really keep this on their plate.”
Prediction: Road diet will be “phenomenal” for Foster
Then there’s the future of Mičetić’s own corner of Portland: the Foster Streetscape Plan. Though that plan’s bike lanes will be far from great — they’ll be paint-only, sometimes running in door zones and zigzagging off course at one point in order to preserve a few parking spaces — removing the passing lanes will be a huge improvement to the area, Mičetić said.
“For our business and the neighborhood in general it’s going to be phenomenal,” he predicted. “Any time you get them to go a little slower, there’s always that marginal chance they’ll remember you at Christmas or they’ll stop in for a birthday present.
“When you slow everything down it just becomes more pleasant as well,” Mičetić said. “I’m not very sympathetic, honestly, to those people who are upset that it’s going to add a minute or two to their commute. It’s not a road that should have been set up for people to go 40 or 50 mph down like they do now.”
Mičetić said his personal dream would be to once again have a streetcar line running down Foster, though he said he fears few would agree.
“The other benefit to us I think is going to be the bike lane,” he added. “I bike occasionally, but let me tell you I never bike on Foster.”
Mičetić, who is planning to open a cafe in the vacant storefront next to his current shop, has asked the city to convert one of the auto parking spaces outside his building to a bike corral.
“This morning we just got two more staples,” he said. “They’re always filling up, and geez, for the summer we want to have adequate parking. … I am just looking forward to that because it’ll bring up the bicycle commuter traffic. It’ll come right by my store and if I get that corral…”
Mičetić trailed off happily.