EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re sad to report that with this story Leg Work columnist and avid cyclist Shoshana Hoose is turning in her keyboard.

Though I’ll still be walking and cycling around Greater Portland, this will be my final Legwork column. I’ve enjoyed introducing you to some of the people working to improve bicycling and walking in Maine and highlighting those efforts throughout the state.

To say goodbye, I’d like to offer a few ideas of my own to keep Maine moving forward:

BE AUDACIOUS

Create a bold vision for Maine as a bicycling and walking destination. Communities elsewhere in the United States and abroad have had the gumption to set goals that may have seemed far-fetched or even impossible at first – and then they pulled them off. We can too.

I love the example of Bogotá, Colombia. More than 40 years ago, activists there won approval to close a main street in the middle of the city to automobile traffic for a day.

“Over 5,000 people came from all over to ride their bicycles down the middle of Bogotá,” Jaime Ortiz Mariño, an organizer, told Bicycling magazine last year. “Housewives, hippies, executives, the young, and the old.”

That event launched Ciclovía, now a beloved local tradition. Bogotá closes more than 70 miles of streets to cars every Sunday. More than a million people take to the roadways to bicycle, skate, stroll with their families or participate in yoga classes in the parks.

Cities around the world have picked up on the idea. Portland’s closing of Baxter Boulevard to car traffic on summer Sundays is a modest example.

I see an opportunity for Maine to put itself on the map by making towns and cities more accessible to elders. We have the oldest population in the country, and a growing number of people aren’t going to be able to drive. We need to find ways for them to navigate our communities on foot, in wheelchairs and by using public transportation.

I commend AARP Maine and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine for working on this effort. We need state and local officials to make it a priority.

FIX WHAT COUNTS

Focus on improvements that matter, not just what’s affordable.

Many Maine communities have spent time and money building bicycle parking. It is a relatively inexpensive and visible way to encourage more people to bike.

But how much difference does it make? Will people ride their bicycles to a destination to use the parking if the routes there aren’t safe?

For the same reason, I have mixed feelings about bicycle lanes. It costs a lot less money to paint bicycle lanes on a road than to build a bicycle path. But many people will never use bicycle lanes because they don’t feel safe cycling next to cars.

We need a lot more paths where bicycles are separated from traffic.

REPAIR THE ROADS

Road maintenance matters. When crosswalk markings fade away, pedestrians are at risk. When street shoulders aren’t swept regularly, cyclists are more likely to get a flat or even crash.

Sidewalks need to be plowed or shoveled soon after snowstorms. Traffic signals should be in working order. It behooves all of us to contact our local public works departments or the Maine Department of Transportation to report maintenance problems.

ENFORCE THE LAW

Ramp up enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian laws. That includes nabbing motorists who are driving while talking on their cellphones or otherwise distracted. It means ensuring that pedestrians cross at crosswalks whenever possible.

And it means ticketing cyclists who blow through traffic lights or ride on the wrong side of the road.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Law Enforcement Collaborative is working to make that happen. It organized a day in June when police and sheriffs in the Portland area targeted enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian laws. We need more, and more regular, enforcement statewide.

BOOT THE BRICKS

Let me end with an update on an issue that I wrote about last year: the safety hazards posed by Portland’s brick sidewalks. I questioned why a city policy requires brick sidewalks on many streets when new concrete products have been developed that look like bricks but are much safer.

After that column appeared, many readers shared their horror stories about brick sidewalks with me. I also heard from Portland City Manager Jon Jennings. He told me his staff was working on proposed changes to the sidewalk policy.

I am happy to report that the Portland City Council recently approved changes calling for new concrete sidewalks, rather than brick ones, in the fast-growing Bayside neighborhood.

“We think that concrete, well-installed, is a high quality and attractive material that should be used in many cases,” Jeff Levine, director of Portland’s Planning and Urban Development Department, wrote me in an email.

That still leaves brick sidewalks in most of downtown Portland. However, Levine said the council also gave city staff more flexibility to determine what materials are used in specific locations.

That’s progress, and I hope it continues.

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