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Owner of Foster storefront wrecked by drunk driver was already a leading voice for street safety

Posted by on April 15th, 2015 at 10:27 am

IMG_20150414_154929

Matthew Mičetić, owner of Red Castle Games,
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.

Storefront crashes are common; the Storefront Safety Council calculates that 60 happen every day in the United States.

“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.”

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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

inside of store

View of the damage from inside the store. The white labels are messages of support from Red Castle Games customers.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

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

front of store on foster

Red Castle Games is looking to expand by adding a cafe next door to its game shop; at the next storefront, a boiled bagel shop is preparing to open.

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.

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33 Comments
  • Avatar
    Terry D-M April 15, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Foster will prove to the city that bike lanes mean business.

    Hear that inner Hawthorne, Belmont or Burnside! Which one of these business associations will be the first to say…we want Commercial Bike Access in the inner east-side?

    Whichever one does it first, will win BIG.

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    Chris I April 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Foster is absolutely terrible right now, for everyone. I can’t wait for the road diet.

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      jeff April 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

      the planned improvements are already a year overdue and those of us who live along Foster are getting somewhat impatient with the empty promises to date, trust me. the changes this business owner are needing are coming…..eventually.

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    9watts April 15, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Cars are the problem. And the Street Fee would have done nothing to rein them in.

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      jeff April 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

      actually crappy drivers are the problem.

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        9watts April 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm

        I don’t know.
        We have crappy cooks, crappy cyclists, crappy teachers, crappy real estate agents, crappy politicians… but even if you add all of them together, they don’t kill 30,000 people a year (unless they’re collectively behind the wheel).

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          davemess April 15, 2015 at 12:24 pm

          I don’t know, crappy politicians have killed a lot more than that over the years.

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            9watts April 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm

            Yeah, I realized (after posting) that that particular one was probably not so well chosen 🙁

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            Adron @ Transit Sleuth April 16, 2015 at 10:39 pm

            Actually motorists kill way more people than all of the US’s ‘enemies’ have done throughout our entire history. Start counting motorist incurred fatalities and all the Americans killed by Nazis in WWII, German in WWI, Russians, Spanish, Mexico, Conferederacy, etc all don’t add up to how many Americans have been killed by their fellow motorists since 1900~.

            Simply put, Americans are our own worst enemies. :-/

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          Rick April 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

          Do forks get people fat?

          People kill people.

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            9watts April 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm

            with forks?!

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              KristenT April 16, 2015 at 10:41 am

              Better than with spoons!

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    Brad April 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Hawthorne and Burnside suck for bikes, but I think Sandy should be an immediate priority. It amazes me how many bikes I see on that road in the morning. It’s a miserable place to bike and has no parallel streets for alternatives.

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    Josh G April 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

    When I blow up the pic. of the store owner, I see something called “Car Wars: The Right of Way Game…” HaHa http://www.sjgames.com/car-wars/

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    Twilliam April 15, 2015 at 11:54 am

    HD in-store footage of the crash: https://youtu.be/yr2dGUsCpsc

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    davemess April 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Foster redesign is next year?!?!?!?!? BOOOOOO
    When did it get bumped from 2015?

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      Terry D-M April 15, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      I do not know, but it is not a surprise since it is federal money, which always seems to come late. I found out that it would be 2016 at the Active Transportation Summit. And yes…BOO…HISS…

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        davemess April 15, 2015 at 4:45 pm

        Or since it is a project involving bike access and PBOT……..
        (looking at you years overdue 50s bikeway).

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    Go-Go-Gadget April 15, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    That flying table had a lot of energy… the customer walking up to the counter is incredibly lucky he wasn’t in it’s way!

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    Adam H. April 15, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Foster was one of the routes designated for more immediate Streetcar expansion. I’d certainly be in favor of adding Streetcar service to Foster.

    It’s a shame that the bike lanes are just door-zone lanes. They should have been protected lanes. Get rid of the parking spaces or even the center turn lane and there’s plenty of room.

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      Rick April 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      People can run faster than the streetcar in many locations of Portland.

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        Gary April 15, 2015 at 1:52 pm

        I can run (or bike) faster than the freeway moves in many locations in Portland during substantial portions of the day. So long as we’re making that the test.

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        oliver April 15, 2015 at 3:46 pm

        Most Americans won’t walk their length, pretty sure they are even less inclined to run it.

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      davemess April 15, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      While the project could always be better, I don’t know that 6-7 foot bike lanes are that worrisome as “door zone” lanes. Especially when large segments of Foster have traditionally had low parking utilization (although this could change in the future).

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        Adam H. April 15, 2015 at 4:55 pm

        6-7 foot bike lanes are great, but if a third of the space is a no-bike zone due to parked cars, then they are less than adequate. If parking utilization is so low on Foster, then why not remove the parking spaces entirely?

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          davemess April 16, 2015 at 4:19 pm

          Adam, I would strongly encourage you to go to some of these planning meetings.
          I was just like you a couple of years ago (I don’t have huge qualms with all street parking being by payment, and don’t like having any street parking on main streets), then I started going to events (around the Foster project) and listening to others. It will open your eyes that there are A LOT of other people with different priorities, lifestyles and interests in this city (Take the meetings on 82nd that I have gone to: they did a poll for priorities for 82nd. “Improved bike facilities” got one vote out of 40.). EVERYTHING is not about the 5-10% of people who consistently ride bikes. Most projects need to be a compromise.
          If I recall, PBOT didn’t bother with even trying to remove the parking, because when they looked into making separated bike facilities the cost was too prohibitive to bother with anyway. There is also the idea that this area is rapidly gentrifying (which will likely be aided by this street design), and there will likely be a need for more street parking in the future.
          If we want to talk about the far West segment, where they have rerouted the bike route to preserve parking? I was completely against that. We need continuous, easy to follow routes.

          “adequate” is not always “the best”. But it’s a heck of lot better than “nothing”.

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    Dan April 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Was the store wearing a helmet?

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      eli bishop April 15, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      or reflective clothing?

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    Justin Carinci April 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    I live just down the block but I’ve never gone in. I should go support them.

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      Gary April 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      I’m certainly not down the block, but he certainly makes me want to head down there to support them.

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    K'Tesh April 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Having been in a building at the time it was hit (the apartment right below mine) I can tell you it’s quite a stressful thing to go through (more so for my downstairs neighbor).

    If you see someone driving oddly please call it in. The person you save may be me.

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    Jim Labbe April 16, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Great story. I was bummed to hear this. Matthew gives so much to making his neighborhood, city and region a better place. And Red Castle games is awesome!

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    Rob Reiter April 25, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Great and interesting story. Not surprised o see such forward thinking in Portland. Similar action up in Seattle you should monitor: see http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/rainier-avenue-is-going-on-a-diet/

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