Candidates Who Walk (and Bike) the Talk

By Evan Manvel of Portland, Oregon. Evan is a longtime bicycling advocate. He's a co-founder and board member of Bike. Walk. Vote. Previously, he contributed Democracy, face-to-face.

This spring brings an unusually excellent crop of candidates who care about making Oregon better for people who walk and bike.

Why should we care?

First, transportation makes up 38% of Oregon’s climate emissions, and is the fastest growing sector. Second, we have record rates of childhood obesity and diabetes, in part meaning this generation may be the first to have a shorter lifespan than our parents. Third, our roads are clogged with drivers taking trips because they don’t have viable choices, harming our economy. And finally, one quarter of Oregonians – roughly a million people – are too young, too infirm, or too poor to drive. People deserve transportation choices.

And as much as the City of Portland leads the country on bike issues, the bike network outlined in Portland’s Bike Master Plan is barely half finished, and is behind schedule. Only four of our eleven Willamette River bridges are bike-friendly. And too many pedestrians and cyclists continue to be injured and killed due to unsafe streets.

Tuesday’s Oregonian noted that the leading mayoral candidates were pushing hard to be seen as pro-bike at Monday’s debate. That’s good news, but how does one choose between them?

Bike. Walk. Vote., looks at candidates’ records, reviews extensive questionnaires, and conducts interviews as needed. As the political arm of the biking and walking movement, we’ve endorsed nine candidates.

Three are current elected officials who are looking to move up and do even more for biking and walking:

Commissioner Sam Adams has used his bully pulpit and influence as head of PDOT to push for biking and walking issues and wants to do even more as Mayor.

Representative Jackie Dingfelder is a long-time leader on biking issues in the Legislature who is looking to move to the state Senate.

Clackamas County Commissioner Lynn Peterson, who has been a strong voice for trails and bridges in regional discussions, is moving up into the Clackamas County Chair position uncontested.

We've also got some hot new prospects:

Jules Kopel-Bailey is a brilliant environmental economist who will be a leader on climate change issues. He often gets to canvass locations by bike and is running for Representative in SE Portland District 42.

Jim Middaugh is a 15-year daily bike commuter and environmental advocate running for Portland City Commissioner Position 2 (Sten's old seat).

Jeff Bissonnette and Chris Smith are two advocates who bring extensive knowledge on energy and transportation issues, as well as experience biking from St. Johns and connecting biking and transit, to City Commission Position 1 (Adams' seat, dual endorsement).

Finally, we’re proud to endorse Michael Dembrow for House District 45, and Randy Leonard, legendary for walking around City Hall in spandex, for City Commission Position 4.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s time to help get these folks elected. Contact the campaigns directly, visit, or email us at bikewalkvote (at) to help us get the word out about these great leaders.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    What the devil is a "bicycling advocate" exactly? Geez Louise, I like to ride a bike, too, for pleasure, for general tooling around the neighborhood, occasionally for shopping, but I don't make a religion of it. And making an endorsement for public office on the basis of how someone commutes to work is simply pathetic. Who gives a rip if Randy Leonard walked around City Hall in Spandex?

  • AR31 (unverified)

    Thanks for being concerned about your pet issue rather than which candidate would be best for their district, that's the way to get things done.

  • Mark G. (unverified)

    I'm an avid cyclist and this is really a goofy endorsement. I'm I to pick a candidate because they rode their bike a few more days than another candidate? I've asked a friend of mine connected with this group and he said they don't even interview candidates. Come on, we've got major environmental groups concentrating on the major issues effect Oregonians, let's not get caught up in the silly ones.

  • tim (unverified)

    For those of you who can't draw the connection between transportation policy and livability, God help you. As someone who is familiar with this group and who has worked for a previous candidate I know for a fact that all candidates are given questionnaires to fill out dealing with a myriad of transportation issues including bike safety, funding, accessibility, etc. I also know for a fact that candidates are interviewed. These endorsements are not made based on who owns the coolest bike...Its policy! Believe it or not there are many people living in Portland including myself who bike as a first mode of transportation. Safety and accessibility are issues that are extremely important to me. What, should unions not endorse candidates who best serve their "pet issue" of workers rights?

  • (Show?)

    Apparently I wasn't clear: Bike. Walk. Vote., looks at candidates’ records, reviews extensive questionnaires, and conducts interviews as needed.

    Sometimes we need to do interviews, sometimes the questionnaires provide us with sufficient information.

    This isn't an endorsement you get by riding your bike. This is an endorsement you get by demonstrating that you understand the complex policy issues around walking and biking, and convincing us that you'll be strong on those issues.

    And for those who call it a "pet issue" - I'm not advocating voting on a single issue. I suggest you collect the endorsements from various groups, independent information, and news stories and make up your own mind. That's what I do. We're just adding one piece of information to that pile.

    And the Leonard comment was meant to be playful. We're endorsing Randy because he understands and supports biking and walking as important transportation choices, not because of his outfit or the fact that he bikes.

  • mara (unverified)

    No one endorsement addresses every issue, but each one provides important information. BRO, OLCV, NARAL, OEA and others - each group assesses candidates' commitment to issues the group cares about. I think it's great that Bike. Walk. Vote. is shedding light on which candidates are likely to promote policies that support biking and walking.

    Active transportation options are good for people's health, vibrant communities and clean air. They don't emit greenhouse gases, and they don't cost a lot of money.

    I bike, I walk, and I vote, and I appreciate knowing where the candidates stand.

  • Mark G. (unverified)

    I only question how much a candidate can tell you from a questionnaire. I don't know of any legitimate group, such as each group Mara listed, that bases their endorsements simply on a questionnaire. In the future, please take the time to get to knows the candidates a little more. It will help Bike Walk Vote be a little bit more objective, rather than picking candidates they are familiar with. Just my opinion.

  • (Show?)

    Having been involved in various group's endorsement processes, I find that interviews are not always very helpful. Records and questionnaires are often enough to distinguish among candidates.

    If you don't think we're objective, fine. That's a loaded word and one that better applies to journalists than advocates.

    But I've met almost every candidate who submitted questionnaire in races we endorsed, and I've argued for endorsing people who I wasn't going to vote for because I thought they were better on biking and walking policy. Which is what our endorsement is about.

    If you've got a specific disagreement with one of our endorsements because you think someone's a great advocate for biking and walking, great -- please share it with folks! The more information, the better.

  • MCR (unverified)


    <h2>Everyone aboard the negative train!</h2>
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