When Jules Kopel-Bailey, State Rep for House District 42 (which is SE Portland), came in to the Mercury offices for an endorsement interview during the election, I basically stopped taking notes. This guy is so whip-smart, so intimidatingly on-the-ball that there was no question he would utilize the power and position of representing the state's most safely liberal district. So now Jules is in office and, lo and behold, he's crafting some really innovative progressive policy.

I ran into Jules last Monday night outside a community meeting on a piece of legislation he's working on which will create living wage green jobs in Oregon. Jules commented on my blue Univega bike and mentioned another legislation idea he had recently — linking traffic fines to vehicle weight so people running a stop sign with a Hummer would get a more expensive ticket than someone running a stop sign with a bike. The idea intrigued me, so I mentioned it to Matt Davis who, of course, said the idea was shit.

"If two people break the same law, they should receive the same punishment!" shouted Matt, gnashing a crumpet between his teeth and knocking it back with some Earl Grey. "Isn't that fair and equal?"

I called Jules to get his response. "With all due respect to my friend Matt Davis, his idea violates the laws of physics," says Kopel-Bailey. "If a Hummer runs a stop sign and runs into a Camry, it will cause way more damage than if a scooter runs a stop sign and runs into a Camry. If you choose to drive a larger vehicle, you should pay a little bit of a price for the fact that you're driving a vehicle which is more dangerous to others." Kopel-Bailey compared the scheme to speeding tickets. Speeding fines increase exponentially based on speed, because if you're going faster, you're more dangerous.

"The idea is that everyone should have to follow the rules of the road, but some people cause more damage than others and we should take that into account with the fines," continues Jules. His legislative team actually submitted an idea for a bill linking traffic fines to vehicle weight to the House's bill-drafting committee a few weeks ago. But Kopel-Bailey wasn't happy like the resulting draft and decided to just drop the issue for this session. Instead, Kopel-Bailey's now focusing on getting the Idaho Stop Sign law passed. See what I mean? BRILLIANT.


Jules Kopel-Bailey: manna from heaven.

"Did you drop the weight fines bill because you only want to push one edgy bike bill a session?" I asked.
Jules laughed. "To be honest, that wasn't part of the calculation. I'm more than happy to do many edgy bike bills a session. At the end of the day, we have a transportation system that was built for cars that bikes have been shoehorned into. We need to take a step back and look at our transportation system overall."