LEWISTON — New pavement and sidewalks along downtown Lisbon Street are good things — just about every business owner or manager there agrees.

But ask how that road gets sectioned and different opinions start to pop up.

For Rick Lachapelle, owner of the Lewiston Pawn Shop at 379 Lisbon St., mixing a painted bicycle lane into the busy traffic is a bad idea.

“There are three major arteries in Lewiston: Main Street, Sabattus Street and Lisbon Street,” Lachapelle said. “When you hinder people’s flow on that artery, they try and find other ways. And that hurts the area, this area.”

A few blocks north, Rainbow Bicycle owner John Grenier said the proposed changes won’t hurt traffic, and they might help.

“This street is a downtown area and it’s not designed to go through without having to stop,” Grenier said. “Would you detour through downtown Portland if you wanted to go to South Portland? No. That’s not why you go to Portland. And if what you really want is to get to Main Street, maybe Lisbon Street is not your best bet.”

The fate of the road is something Lisbon Street businesses and other residents figured was settled earlier this month. City councilors approved a paving plan March 3 to mill and resurface the asphalt and repair the sidewalks on either side.

The project is being funded mostly by the Maine Department of Transportation. Lewiston is expected to pay about $180,000 of the $1.8 million project.

The plan expands beyond the street, with the city replacing streetlights, adding trees and fixing up the arcade-stairway between Park and Lisbon streets, adjacent to Mother India Restaurant.

The biggest controversy has been replacing turning lanes south of Pine Street with a dedicated bicycle lane. Councilors approved that idea by a 4-3 vote and now a group is passing a petition, hoping to get 958 signatures and overturn the entire project.

Lachapelle said he plans to sign the petition. He thinks it shows that a majority on the council is out of touch with the rest of the city.

“The philosophy that four councilors want to push through, I question if that philosophy agrees with most of Lewiston,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair that 98 percent of the city should give way to the 2 percent that want a bike lane.”

For him, parking is the issue. He said he avoids other Lisbon Street businesses now because they don’t have easy parking in front of their doors.

Grenier said parking has never been an issue with the project. According to plans, all sidewalks will remain the same width and all on-street parking spaces will stay.

“If we shoot this down, we’re not getting more parking,” Grenier said. “If we do it, we’re not losing any, either. And if a truck is unloading on the street, it won’t be any different than it is right now. There’s this misconception that we can do something else and reconfigure the street, but we can’t. The road is what it is.”

Susan Hall, owner of the Vault wine store at 84 Lisbon St. and Marche Kitchen and Wine Bar at 40 Lisbon St., supports the project and the bike lanes, even though she believes Lisbon Street traffic is a challenge.

“My store is a destination,” she said. “People come here because they want someone who can help guide them into what they want. They can park in the garage and come in and look.”

The character of the road is changing, especially on her end.

“They think of it as what it was : lawyers’ offices, the court and some shops that close up at 6 p.m.,” she said. “But that’s not the case. It’s changing, and it’s vital that people realize this is becoming a neighborhood and people are moving here.”

Many are not convinced, including Spencer Suminksi and Timothy Langelier at Escape Vapes at 233 Lisbon St.

“There’s a bike lane on Ash Street and I haven’t seen a single bike on it,” Suminski said. “There are just not enough people on bikes, especially in Lewiston-Auburn. I don’t see the point of changing things.”

Kadra Bogoreh, who works at the Somali cafe at 259 Lisbon St., agreed.

“This is a downtown, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to mix in bike lanes,” she said. “Bike lanes on other streets are fine, but this is Lewiston’s downtown. We need lanes for the cars.”

But Rainbow Bicycles Manager Jared Buckingham said there is a simple reason for few bikes on the road: There’s no bike lane, so it’s not safe.”

He added, “There are bicyclists out there, and if they want to be downtown they have to be ballsy. You have to think of yourself as a car and get out in traffic, and most bicyclists just won’t do that. I think they’ll all feel much better if they have a lane.”

Besides, slower automobile traffic was the reason the store relocated to Lewiston from Center Street in Auburn.

“We wanted to get away from the busy, 50-mph car traffic,” he said. “We wanted to get downtown where people can actually shop.”

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