Here’s proof that Maine has come of age as a cycling hot spot: We now have an attorney who focuses her practice on bicycle law. Lauri Boxer-Macomber of Portland is gaining a national reputation for her advocacy on behalf of cyclists, pedestrians and other so-called vulnerable users.

As chair of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s legislation and policy committee, Boxer-Macomber has helped craft proposals to improve Maine laws for bicycling and walking.

She played a crucial role in passage of a 2013 law that holds motorists accountable when they hit cyclists or roller skiers. The law says that doing so is “prima facie evidence” that they violated Maine’s requirement to give at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.

Maine is believed to be the first state in the country to pass such a law, and it is considered a national model, said Peter Wilborn, founder of the national Bike Law network.

The field of bicycle law has grown substantially in the past 20 years. Many states have passed laws spelling out the rights and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists so that they can safely share the road. A growing number of personal injury lawyers now advertise themselves as bike lawyers.

Since Wilborn founded Bike Law in 1998, he has fielded requests from about five Maine lawyers who wanted to join the network. He turned them down because they didn’t fit his definition of a true “bike lawyer” – someone who not only rides a bike and represents cyclists, but also cares passionately about improving cycling laws.

Wilborn said he invited Boxer-Macomber in January to become the first Maine lawyer in Bike Law because “she is a very, very unusual combination of a lawyer whose heart and brain are 100 percent aligned.”

“She is smart as hell, and she is a true believer,” Wilborn said. “She is going to be very influential on the national stage.”

Boxer-Macomber is a lifelong bicyclist who commutes by bike from her Deering Highlands home to her downtown office most of the year. She earned a master’s in community development and a law degree in Davis, California; living in that bicycling mecca opened her eyes to the way that good infrastructure encourages people to use their bikes to get around.

Boxer-Macomber sees her work on behalf of safe walking and bicycling as part of a movement for social change. She notes that many Mainers don’t have cars because of their age, disability or low income, and she says they “deserve safe and affordable access to the roadways.” She also points out that promoting active transportation helps address problems such as public health and climate change.

Boxer-Macomber donates a lot of time to the cause. She has given talks about bicycle laws to everyone from trial lawyers to police and the Maine Biking Belles, a group of women, trans and femme bicyclists in Portland.

Boxer-Macomber practices law at the Portland firm of Kelly, Remmel & Zimmerman. More than a decade ago, she represented a teenage girl who was walking with her mother near their home in Maine when she was hit by a car and seriously injured. That case led to more referrals, and five years ago, Boxer-Macomber began concentrating her law practice on representing cyclists and pedestrians. She has had many cases where cyclists were hit at intersections by motorists turning left, or cut off by motorists taking right-hand turns in front of them. She’s also handled several cases of pedestrians injured in commercial areas such as parking lots.

If a cyclist crashes because of road conditions, municipalities usually have immunity. But Boxer-Macomber said that might not be the case if road crews fail to properly mark a hazard such as a big pothole. Or drivers could be at fault if their car or truck dropped something on the road that led to the crash.

Wilborn, the national bike law expert, has conferred with Boxer-Macomber on some cases.

“There is no one that I know of that is better than she is,” he said. “Her factual, legal, technical analysis of bike crashes is world class.”

Boxer-Macomber’s involvement with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine includes working with police to ensure enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian laws. She did research that helped lead to passage of Maine’s vulnerable users law last year.

Boxer-Macomber said she often meets lawyers who are surprised to learn that there are enough Maine cyclists and pedestrians being hurt to focus her practice on that area. In 2015, 182 cyclists and 276 pedestrians were involved in crashes with motor vehicles. Nineteen pedestrians died. Almost all of the cyclists and the other pedestrians were injured.

“We kind of accept that there are crashes,” Boxer-Macomber said. “We need people to stand up and say, ‘No, it’s not OK for anyone to be hit.’ ”

Shoshana Hoose is a freelance writer who walks and bicycles in Greater Portland and beyond. Contact her at [email protected].