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Southeast Division bike shop ‘A Better Cycle’ will close next month

Posted by on April 15th, 2019 at 11:20 am

(Photo: A Better Cycle)

A neighborhood bike shop in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood will close its doors next month after over a decade in business. Owners of A Better Cycle announced their decision last week.

Six original co-owners in 2007: Aaron Truman, Tim Weeks, Clinton Garner, Ian Mitchell, Rachel Dominguez-Benner, and Ben “Sauce” Applebaum.
(Photo: A Better Cycle)

“We are so proud of our time here as your local, neighborhood bike shop,” the announcement states on the shop’s website. “Thank you all so much for the opportunity to live and work the way we wanted to for over a decade! We love you all.”

The small shop at 2324 SE Division opened in 2007 when six friends came together to share ownership. The shop has remained worker-owned and has been run as a collective ever since.

Christine Dakis is one of the shop’s workers. She told us the decision ultimately came down to money. “The last few years haven’t been great financially, and we (and most other bike shops we talk to) have been doing less and less business (money-wise) every year,” she shared. “It is down to the point where we can’t really cut costs any more and think it is time to close up before we can’t get out of the hole.”

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Dakis added that in addition to the financial pinch, it was just time to move on. She pointed to the “vast” neighborhood change in the past decade. This part of southeast has seen transformational commercial and residential real estate development, with thousands of new residents looking for a slice of the famous (or infamous, depending on your values) Portland lifestyle. Unfortunately for Dakis and her fellow workers, that lifestyle didn’t include shopping at a place like A Better Cycle. “It seems there aren’t as many people nearby looking for the kind of business that we are,” she said.

“It seems like our core customers are slowly being driven away from here. The weird side of Portland is getting smaller and smaller.”
— Christine Dakis, co-owner/worker

“It feels like there are more and more people moving here, but that they are moving here with cars, and either prefer online shopping or big shop convenience, which doesn’t bode well for us,” Dakis added. “Even with folks we do know — it is hard not to go for what are, or may seem like, better deals online or elsewhere when you are squeezed between rising rents and stagnating wages with increasing costs for healthcare.”

Since A Better Cycle has been open, inner southeast Portland has experienced an exodus of sorts. A place that used to house many lower-income activists, artists, and entrepreneurs has lost its affordability. People have moved further north and east, or even out of the city altogether.

“It seems like our core customers are slowly being driven away from here,” is how Dakis put it. “The weird side of Portland is getting smaller and smaller.”

As for the future of the shop, the plan is to continue taking service orders until May 1st. All new stock is currently 20% off and you can expect deeper discounts as the days go by. Dakis says if you’re looking for cool older frames and parts, new rims and hubs (that were stocked for wheelbuilding), and other bike shop supplies, roll on over and take a look. The shop is expected to close sometime next month.

Thank you Christine and all the workers at A Better Cycle for all your service and dedication to our community over the years!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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

68 Comments
  • Avatar
    julia April 15, 2019 at 11:30 am

    When I moved to Portland from Salem for school, I went on a group ride from campus around Portland. It was the first time I rode my bike in the city. A Better Cycle was one of the places we stopped. A year later I moved within a 5 minute walk of ABC. It became my trusted bike shop. It will be missed by the few neighborhood holdouts left. Hopefully the building will remain and something will move in- and the building doesn’t get torn down to make way for a D street monstrosity. (RIP Mirador. ) Thank you ABC <3

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      Ivan Boothe April 16, 2019 at 1:39 pm

      I used to live practically across the street from ABC. Now I live a few blocks away but still go there for everything. When I went in today I was devastated to see the sign, though I completely understand the reasoning.

      When the frame on my bike cracked, not only did ABC help me migrate all the parts of my bike to a new frame, but they actually *found a new frame for me* at a yard sale near my house and suggested I head over and get it. And now I’m a proud owner of a blue-and-green Schwinn/Univega frankenstein’s monster. I love it.

      Folks seem to have great things to say about City Bikes, so I guess I’ll be checking that out!

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  • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
    Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) April 15, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Even at the bike valet, while our bike parking numbers continue to go up our repairs declined a bit from the previous years. One thing I have wondered about is whether the parts sold on bikes just last longer? Disc brakes do not need to be replaced as often….

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  • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
    Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) April 15, 2019 at 11:51 am

    It is also ironic that one of the best ways to build a culture around bikes is through local bike shops. As new people are moving in we need that culture even more but the bike shops are not making enough money. I have always thought a city financed local bike share service that is managed by local bike shops could be helpful especially if the city paid the shops well. New residents could rent out a bike and the gear for a month at a time for free.

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      Hess Mills April 15, 2019 at 12:34 pm

      Bike shop proposes program for City to subsidize bike shops, huh

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        9watts April 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm

        That would be a lot better (for employment, local economy, community) than the city suggesting subsidizing Nike by giving them exclusive advertising rights to the bike share system. It isn’t just about $$.

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          Chris I April 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm

          Wait… you think that Nike’s sponsorship of the bikeshare system is a city subsidy for Nike?

          You are free to out-bid them next time around. Get that subsidy, bro!

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            9watts April 15, 2019 at 2:59 pm

            Nike obviously thought it was a good deal for them—a worthwhile way to spend their advertising dollars in a fashion that they must have assumed gives them better exposure than spending those dollars somewhere else.

            As for your second point, please read Aaron’s post yesterday deploring the unfortunate habit of some individuals here to deploy this tactic.

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              • Avatar
                Middle of the Road Guy April 15, 2019 at 4:41 pm

                Yawn.

                It’s the same as “if you don’t vote you can’t complain”.

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              Chris I April 15, 2019 at 5:10 pm

              I implore you to find a source stating that corporate sponsorships are a form of public subsidy. I will wait.

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                9watts April 15, 2019 at 6:41 pm

                Has anyone tabulated the hundreds (thousands?) of hours racked up by PBOT staff courting corporate sponsors? It took years. Those are public dollars. Not sure what the mystery is here. I’m not hung up on it being called a subsidy, but I felt the shock expressed above by Hess Mills at the prospect of helping neighborhood bike shops with public dollars called for some perspective.

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                meh April 16, 2019 at 6:33 am

                So looking for a corporate sponsor IE: give us money to support a programe we can’t support ourselves, is subsidising the corporate sponsor.

                Would there be bike share without the corporate sponsorship?

                Than kind of pretzel logic is interesting. Cirque de Soleil is looking for a contortionist.

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              • Avatar
                9watts April 16, 2019 at 7:46 am

                “give us money to support a programe we can’t support ourselves”

                That is of course how the City chose to frame the matter.
                Other ways are equally conceivable.
                (A) skip it,
                (B) fund it outright, spend the money that went to courting a sponsor instead on the bikes themselves (at whatever level we choose to fund).

                How we prioritize the spending of tax dollars is a set of political choices, and whether, and for what we turn to corporate sponsors is as well. What you folks who are heaping scorn on my comments about this seem to be missing is that Nike did not do this out of the goodness of its corporate heart, but because it felt it was a good investment. There is no reason we can’t look at this from a different angle and appreciate that the public exposure this agreement btw Nike and the City offers Nike was worth the price tag. All the apologists who would have us believe this is proof of Nike’s largesse heard right here are arguably proof of this strategy.

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                9watts April 16, 2019 at 8:14 am

                https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/nike-had-25-billion-last-year-still-got-a-tax-break-from-oregon

                Nike pays $10million for advertising by branding bike share for five years.
                In the same year it spent $3 billion on demand creation/advertising
                And the Oregon legislature provided a tax subsidy to Nike worth $2 billion over the next thirty years.

                You can (and probably will) argue that these figures have nothing to do with each other, but the fact is that the taxes Nike should be paying and would be paying if this country were not determined to prostrate itself before corporations every chance they get are vastly greater (33x to be specific) than the amount they contributed to Portland’s bikeshare system.

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                Chris I April 16, 2019 at 8:54 am

                I’m glad you pointed out that there is absolutely no connection between those two things, and saved me the time.

                I’m no fan of Nike. Our state should absolutely not be giving them tax breaks.

                City employee time spent seeking corporate sponsors for bikeshare is a subsidy for bikeshare. If the City does the math and notices that this amount is more than the sponsorship itself (highly unlikely), then the city should not seek a sponsor.

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              • Avatar
                9watts April 16, 2019 at 9:02 am

                “I’m glad you pointed out that there is absolutely no connection between those two things, and saved me the time.”

                You funny.

                Nike saves $67million/year in taxes (for 30 years)

                $67million in taxes that could have, would have paid for all sorts of useful things—could have bought 20,000 of those overpriced orange bikes every year…

                In lieu of these taxes they didn’t/don’t have to pay we get the FAR MORE VISIBLE
                Nike pays $2million/year for bikeshare rights (for 5 years).

                As meh put it, we can’t afford to pay for bike share, so go looking for corporate sponsors…

                You tell me. Who is subsidizing who?

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  • Avatar
    RH April 15, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    “It feels like there are more and more people moving here, but that they are moving here with cars, and either prefer online shopping or big shop convenience, which doesn’t bode well for us”

    THIS.

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  • Avatar
    9watts April 15, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    A bummer, for sure.
    City Bikes (another cooperative) is more on my route, and I would miss them very much if the same fate were to befall them.

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      D2 April 15, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      I think this is a big part of it. There is a lot of competition around there.

      For me it was mostly City Bikes and Universal are open until 7. And if I commute by bike, I am not usually back on the east side before 6.

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    SilkySlim April 15, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Double whammy with Mirador having closed two blocks down.

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    bikeninja April 15, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    The question I keep asking myself is, ” when did the pool of people moving to Portland go to Heck, and why.” We once had good and noble cyclists and citizens like the editor and owner of this outstanding blog, but now I am not so sure. Now the quality of folks we have moving in seems to be illustrated by a place I pass each day on my ride to work. It is a fitness club in NW Portland that has a small parking lot, and the members will park in the middle of the adjoining street waiting for a spot to open up in the parking lot so they can park close to the front door and make it in for their workout without having to exercise too much getting there. Yes , I know these are mostly newcomers because of the license plates I see as I swerve around them as they block the street . I know it is not politically correct to point this out, but darn someone has to.

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      SERider April 16, 2019 at 8:59 am

      It’s not just “more people” in Portland. There are a lot of factors at play.
      The rise of Youtube, with it’s instantly accessible videos on how to work on your own bike, combined with cheaper online retailers for parts certainly plays a big factor.
      And let’s face it there are still a LOT of bike shops in Portland. There is tough competition both from other shops and from DIY.
      As Kiel points out, bikes might be lasting longer, and in general better quality bikes are cheaper these days. So even if bikes do start to go riders may be more interested in just upgrading or replacing the whole bike rather than doing constant repairs.

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        KTaylor April 16, 2019 at 2:03 pm

        But there really are a lot more car-centric folks moving here, and turning Portland bit by bit into a car-centric city.

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    Dan April 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    A Better Cycle got me back on the road lickety split last summer when I managed to strip the threads on my seatpost collar. They were a cool shop, sorry to see them go.

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    Orig_JF April 15, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    My neighbors moved into a new box mansion next door. I never see them outside except on garbage day. They hire someone to do their yard work. They get at least an amazon order every other day. They get food delivered by one of those pre-portioned cook at home box companies. They do own a Peloton, as I saw it delivered. They have lived there for two years and I still don’t know their names. When I wave, they either ignore or don’t see me…

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      bikeninja April 15, 2019 at 2:33 pm

      You hit the nail on the head JF. It has been the arrival of the box people. They live in a box, shop from a box, get food from a box, ride to work in a box, and work in a box where they go to meetings and brainstorm how they can all think outside the box.

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        Middle of the Road Guy April 15, 2019 at 4:40 pm

        Sounds like you have neighbors with different values than you. Diversity!

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      Chris I April 15, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      A lot of people buy really large houses because they never leave them. They don’t use parks, or other public resources. I’m not sure if it’s anti-social behavior, or just a fear of inclement weather.

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        chris April 17, 2019 at 9:57 am

        Maybe they got sick of their kids finding drug needles and human feces at their local park?

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      SERider April 16, 2019 at 9:02 am

      It’s funny, when I moved to Portland 9 years ago, none of our neighbors actually came over to meet us and introduce themselves. It’s very odd that in today’s society there is this expectation that the new people to the area should be the ones to go out of their way to welcome themselves to the neighborhood?

      Maybe you should extend the olive branch and have them over for dinner and try to rub a little bit of “old Portland” onto them?

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 16, 2019 at 10:05 am

        In an era when the expectation is that you ask permission before calling on the phone, actually showing up at someone’s door unannounced, even to offer a welcome, may seem awkward to some.

        We, as a society, have withdrawn in some important ways.

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        Huey Lewis April 16, 2019 at 10:19 am

        Were you a renter or a buyer? That makes a big difference.

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          SERider April 19, 2019 at 9:33 am

          Buyer, and a few of the neighbors were renters. There also was a language barrier with a few of them. We only really interacted much with the guy across the street who moved in (bought) his house about the same time we did.

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      JP April 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      How could they pass up such friendly overtures from their neighbor who… apparently watches their mail and judges them for it? I get what you’re going for here, but I think it’s pretty crappy to make assumptions about people based on what you see being delivered to their house. You don’t know that they don’t have a disability, or mental health issues, or crippling social anxiety. Sure, it’s nice when neighbors are friendly; maybe you could start that ball rolling by not being so critical of these people and their house, mail, and perceived friendliness.

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    Todd Boulanger April 15, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    It is also a numbers game…the market has been over saturated with really high number (bike commuters per bike shop) of good and great bike shops…a similar situation for brew pubs, coffee shops these days. The last time I looked [2008] it was something like 70 bike shops (so perhaps now 60 now) which was like a ratio of ~7000 bike commuters per IBD shop at the peak bike commuter…vs. ~70,000:1 in Vancouver WA.

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      B. Carfree April 15, 2019 at 7:38 pm

      I’m having a bit of trouble with your arithmetic or data. According to the ACS, there were 17500 bike commuters in 2008 and 22500 in 2017 (most recent data). Thus, if there were 70 bike shops in ’08 and 60 now, PDX has changed its commuter:shop ratio from 250 commuters/shop to 375 commuters/shop.

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        TomCat April 15, 2019 at 8:44 pm

        Ive heard the bike shop count is hovering around 90. Anyone want to count?

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      B. Carfree April 15, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      We’re into that negative spiral. I want parts, but some are a bit weird and can’t reasonably be stocked at a small shop. This forces me to either go on-line for those or to place an order at the shop and pay more for the privilege of waiting longer. While I’m on-line, I will probably buy some other items that might be at my LBS. That makes the turnover for those less weird parts that much slower at my LBS, so it’s got to decide if it can keep stocking them in the face of things going obsolete. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      Until my former LBS closed, I’d just roll by and order my weird stuff because I really didn’t want to lose the shop. Obviously, there weren’t enough people thinking that way and now I’m part of that problem because I don’t feel attached to any of the other shops I have tried since my fav closed.

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    Todd Boulanger April 15, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    And e-commerce too…I remember when I could only buy a [handbuilt] front wheel with a dynamo hub from a local IBD shop (like City Bikes)…and e-commerce [even mail/ phone commerce] did not carry the depth of quality bike commuter products too.

    The new customer is “not me” rummaging through used/ NOS parts bins from the 60’s/80s…since the post mountain bike era was not always euro commuter friendly in gear selection…but its my cycling neighbor who is a master Amazon Prime customer ordering everything on-line, no matter how small or frequent the order is.

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    Beth H April 15, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    When I began working at Citybikes back in 1995, a great number of customers were not only looking for a bargain by shopping used, they also were more interested in learning how to do their own repairs. As the inner eastside has gentrified, the number of new arrivals still interested in getting their hands dirty seems to have fallen off.

    I don’t think that necessarily spells “doom” for shops that maintain a store of used parts; it simply means they will have to take that into account as they go forward. (I do suspect, though, that this trend may inform the number of closures and potential mergers in our heavily-saturated bike market in the months and years to come.)

    I believe the biggest threat to small brick-and-mortar shops focusing on used parts and repairs continues to be the online presence, which not only encourages folks to shop for price first, but also to consider cheaper bikes as throw-away things when they stop working. Why spend $250 in repairs on a bike you paid 450 for when you can just go out and get another $450 bike?

    No ill will against the current bike retail scene in Portland, but I feel more and more that I retired from the industry just in time to avoid the worst of the evolution. I hope that things will turn around, but the only way I see that happening is for cars to become much more expensive to own and operate, and for shops to continue to service older bikes, instead of catering too exclusively to the throw-away culture that has really become a part of the bike industry in the last decade.
    I think Citybikes is safe for awhile yet. I hope so.
    Happy riding.

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      Todd Boulanger April 15, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      Aloha, Beth…good to read you. The wheel you built me at City Bikes is still trucking on!!

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        Beth H April 15, 2019 at 9:38 pm

        Todd — glad to hear it!
        (Though clearly it sounds like you haven’t leapt tall buildings on it yet…!)
        Cheers

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      soren April 15, 2019 at 6:23 pm

      For ideological reasons I would greatly prefer to use City Bikes or other bonafide worker cooperatives but I have not been able to find a coop/collective that services hydraulic disc brakes. Ironically, my main ride is a 13 year old city bike with a hydraulics that was manufactured by one of the largest cooperatives in the world — Mondragon.

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    Doug Hecker April 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    A couple of considerations

    1. Division is a mess. The current state of it is more like a never ending bus lane then it is anything else. Multimodal wasn’t a consideration in its current form. ( Inner SE to 60th)

    2. It’s easy to miss this shop due to it’s “flag lot” location.

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    Tom Martin April 15, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    I will be sorry to see ABC go; they were a cooperative neighbor and have helped me more times than I can count. The changes we are seeing in Portland are not unique to Portland. What is unique is the concentration of bike repair shops west of 82nd Ave. There are 240,000 people living between 82nd ave and the Gresham border, without any bike shop to service them. Outer Rim is the only one left. Performance went bankrupt and closed down their Mall 205 location. I bought an existing shop (WTF Bikes is now TomCat Bikes), because the commercial rents + build out + appropriate inventory + security was insane to consider. Lease rates aren’t any cheaper east of 82nd than they are closer in. I think there is some validity for local, small business to have access to the same programs and deals that bigger corporations heavily lobby for.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 15, 2019 at 10:58 pm

      I love your logo!

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      SERider April 16, 2019 at 9:07 am

      NW ProGear in Lents?

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    Toby Keith April 15, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    I don’t live in that area and had never been to the shop, but sad to hear about another small neighborhood shop closing it’s doors. It doesn’t seem the recent hordes from the C-word state value the same things.

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    Chi Zhang April 15, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    When UK shops like Merlin selling stuff at OEM price, no one can compete with that, full brand new record 12 speed hydro disk for $1600

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    Josh Mahar April 16, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Let’s be careful about scapegoating all the problems to the “newcomers.” There are lots of changes and trends going on both locally and nationally that may impact the success of a small bike shop. Just blaming outsiders coming in and ruining the neighborhood with absolutely no evidence (do they own more cars? Do they shop more than long term residents online?) is adangerous and counterproductive to building a better community.

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      Chris I April 16, 2019 at 8:55 am

      But it’s so much easier to just blame Californians for all of our problems…

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        Middle of The Road Guy April 16, 2019 at 11:44 am

        or anyone who isn’t Progressive.

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      KTaylor April 16, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Well, according to DMV records, the Metro area (Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties) has added a whopping 148,176 cars in the past 5 years. That’s enough cars to fill 465 football fields, all crowded onto infrastructure designed to accommodate half as many.

      According to the US Census American Community Survey, Oregon’s percentage of car-free households dropped by a full percentage point between 2016 and 2017. I think some of this is newcomers who would rather have their liver eaten by an eagle than leave their car at home and some of it is people who used to get around without a car who have stopped because it is becoming so unpleasant (and dangerous) to walk and bike.

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        el timito April 18, 2019 at 1:43 pm

        I think we are also seeing an influx of folks who have a car but only want it for the weekends. The percentage of drive-alone commuters actually declined between 2010 and 2016, although the total number of people driving obviously grew as the number of total people grew.

        “Yes, newly arrived car commuters put 53,225 more cars on the road between 2010 and 2016. But the increase could have been 21 percent higher (64,566) if Portlanders kept jumping into their cars alone at the same rate as they had.” (link on my handle)

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty April 16, 2019 at 10:55 am

    >>> Nike did not do this out of the goodness of its corporate heart, but because it felt it was a good investment. <<<

    This is what we call a win-win. Nike gets some advertising, and Portland gets a bike share program.

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      9watts April 16, 2019 at 11:01 am

      You are welcome to consider that a win-win.

      “Nike put an economic gun to the governor’s head and said you either guarantee the law won’t change or we’ll go elsewhere,” Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, told the Wall Street Journal in December. “As it is Nike is paying 90 percent less than its fair-share in taxes.”

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 16, 2019 at 11:06 am

        Sorry for any confusion — I was referring to Nike’s sponsorship of our bike share program.

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          9watts April 16, 2019 at 11:14 am

          I’m not confused. Perhaps you are?

          I was inviting you to look beyond the January 2016 ribbon cutting, to the only slightly larger fiscal context within which we locate, understand Nike’s ‘contribution.’

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            TomCat April 16, 2019 at 11:17 am

            How the heck did biketown get thrown under the bus here?

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              Middle of The Road Guy April 16, 2019 at 11:45 am

              It’s a corporation with a Hi-Viz color.

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    Harth Huffman April 17, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I am sorry to hear about this. ABC has provided me with an elusive part on more than one occasion, and they will be missed.

    However, I hope ABC’s customers will patronize another fine shop in the neighborhood that serves a similar niche: Seven Corners Cycles. It’s close by and you will not find better service anywhere!

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    AB April 18, 2019 at 7:44 am

    I work at a local bike shop and have chosen the bike industry as a life long career. I’m sorry to see another local shop close it’s doors. Please support local bike shops and industry as much as possible. We local bike shops need your help. Please come and support us any way you can.

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    BC Kowalski April 19, 2019 at 7:22 am

    Damn, always sad to see a bike shop close. Sheds an interesting light into that side of Portland.

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    eddiearniwhatever April 21, 2019 at 6:46 am

    I don’t think there are unusual people moving to Portland. They’re mostly ordinary Americans, and most ordinary Americans are car people who drive every day and see bikes as toys or nuisances. Simple as that.

    One can always go to a bike shop, check what they’ve got there, then have them order any parts you need and they don’t stock. One is rarely forced to buy bike parts online.

    I refuse to buy some items online in an effort to support local brick and mortars, but this is considered an antiquated philosophy. I know young folks who dont even know such places exist in their own neighborhoods. Probably because they drive everywhere they go.

    Sad to see so much of the character being drained from the city, but this has been the norm since at least 2008 / 2009, from what I can tell. I don’t see why or how this trend will or can be reversed.

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    Steve August 23, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Anyone know how to get my bike serial number from them. They had it on record and bike was stolen last night. Can’t find my written record.

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      idlebytes August 23, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Did you try their email or phone number from their blog linked at the top of this article? They might have them forwarded or still check on them. Maybe even just message their facebook page.

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