Lewiston mulls temporary bike lanes for November conference

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LEWISTON — The city will experiment with temporary bike lanes between Bates College and the downtown next month as part of a conference dedicated to urban planning.

Organizers of the Nov. 5 and 6 BuildMaine Conference asked city councilors for help building the temporary bike lane. It would run from the college south to Vale Street, onto Central Avenue and then from Ash Street to Canal Street and the Bates Mill Complex.

The temporary lanes would return to Bates via Pine Street, to Leeds and Webster and up to Central Avenue.

“On a long-term basis, we’ve always been looking for ways to connect the campus with downtown,” City Administrator Ed Barrett said. “We are actually pretty close, given the existing bike lanes on Ash and Pine streets. I can’t tell you for sure it will be done, because there may be concerns of residents. But if you are willing to let us try, we can see if it is possible.”

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The Congress for the New Urbanism’s Maine chapter is hosting the BuildMaine conference at Bates Mill No. 1 in conjunction with the Maine Municipal Association, Maine Real Estate and Development and GrowSmart Maine.

The conference will bring together urban planning professionals to discuss new ideas about improving Maine’s economy.

Topics include using street design to promote commercial success, building designs that are best tuned for new technology and trends, and making cities financially self-sufficient.

Portland Planner Kara Wilbur said the group hopes to find a good way to test new planning ideas.

“We are trying to do something quickly, with a flurry of activity, instead of spending years and $30,000 on traffic studies and processes for something you don’t know will work,” Wilbur said. “This is kind of the antidote to the way we’ve done things for years.”

The group is hoping Bates students will attend the conference and is offering them discounted tickets.

The bike lanes likely will be painted early in the week before the conference and would be gone by the weekend, Barrett said.

Councilors said they were fine with the idea as long as the temporary lanes don’t reduce parking for the Lewiston Memorial Armory or Lewiston Middle School.

Councilor Leslie Dubois said she didn’t want the lanes to interfere with the Nov. 4 voting at the armory and Councilor Donald D’Auteuil said he didn’t want them to interfere with parking at the school.

“There is so little there now; it’s really a problem when school is letting out or starting,” D’Auteuil said. “I don’t want to do anything to make it worse.”

Barrett said the temporary lanes could take bicyclists down one of the side streets — Franklin, Bardwell or Nichols streets — to Vale Street.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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