Two-term City Council incumbent Democrat Peter Kotses, who is up for re-election in November, can be found riding his bike around Athens to City Hall or to his small business Athens Bicycle. 

“We’re a one-car family,” Kotses said. “I try to be as multimodal as possible.”

Kotses’ passion for bicycling has strengthened his connection to the city of Athens and — through Athens Bicycle, which upholds the belief that “bicycling and community go hand in hand,” according to its website  — formed his role as a member of City Council.

Athens Bicycle connected Kotses to many members of the community such as City Council President Chris Knisely. Knisely met Kotses in 2009 when she purchased a new bike and bicycle rack for her car from his shop. 

Kotses, who graduated from Ohio University with a degree in history, opened Athens Bicycle in the late 1990s.

“I always used to joke that with my history degree I could work in any bike shop in the United States,” Kotses said. With his degree, he described learning critical and analytical skills through the College of Arts and Sciences.

As an Athens native, Kotses appreciates the community’s connection to small business. 

“Business isn’t just to make money,” Kotses said. “A good, solid, beautiful, community-minded business is thinking about its community.” 

Kotses’ love for bicycles comes from his father, who rode the Blue Ridge Parkway — a nearly 470 mile trail that runs from central Virginia to northern North Carolina — when Kotses was a child. When Kotses graduated high school in the late 1980s, mountain bikes just began to be mass-produced consumer products.

“I took that graduation cash I got and bought a mountain bike,” he said. 

His passion for the sport led Kotses to working in bicycle shops and eventually opening his own. 

With the construction of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway in Athens County, Kotses said the cycling community expanded. The market for cycling doubles with the construction of a bikeway in areas that did not have bikeways before, according to Kotses.

Kotses viewed serving on City Council as another opportunity to make his community better. He initially ran to give a stronger voice to the small businesses of Athens. He is also a vocal supporter within the council of transportation.

“[City Council was] looking at business and having conversations about it, and I felt like they didn’t necessarily have that expertise,” Kotses said. 

Kotses currently serves as the chair of the council’s Transportation Committee and a member of the Finance Committee. 

Besides transportation, Kotses has worked as a communicator between the city of Athens, City Council and the Athens City School District during the November 2018 election when a $5.88 million school levy passed for long-term funding for the school renovations. 

Knisely describes Kotses’ role with the levy as a liaison between the typically disconnected entities. 

“It wasn’t serving on an official committee,” Knisely said. “But, he was willing to step forward and do that.”

As a user of nontraditional transportation, Kotses presented a complete plan that designates streets for pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, buses and trucks. He is also active in the Friends of Strouds Park and the Baileys Trail System project. However, Kotses has recused himself from voting on the funding for the Baileys due to his heavy role in the project.

“He’s a planning kind of person, an outdoors kind of person and committed to Athens,” Knisely said. 

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