SF restaurant owners say Valencia St. will 'die' if controversial bike lane is not revised

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023
SF restaurant owners say businesses will 'die' due to bike lane
San Francisco restaurant owners say the Valencia Street bike lane is driving away customers and business as there is no space left to park.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The SFMTA board met on Monday to discuss changes to a controversial bike lane in San Francisco's Mission District.

Three months ago, ABC7 News tested and reported on the controversial Valencia Street bike lane. Back then, it was still under construction, but many had mixed reactions.

"I don't love it," said one cyclist.

"Actually, I like it a lot," said another cyclist.

VIDEO: SF's new bike lane faces mixed reviews from cyclists, drivers but will it actually be safer?

San Francisco Valencia Street bike lane is facing mixed reviews from cyclists and drivers but will it actually be safer?

This week, we went back and heard from multiple business owners who say the bike lane is making it hard to survive on Valencia Street.

"Not everyone takes a bicycle or walks. People drive though the city on the weekend. Our business went down dramatically from before. We are down more than 50%," said Eiad Eltawil, owner of Yasmin restaurant.

When the Valencia Street bike lane was installed, about 70 parking spots were removed from the area.

"I get a lot of calls every day, right before the shift starts. Sorry, we cannot make it. We've been looking for parking for half an hour. 45 minutes. We have to cancel," said Rafik Bouzidi, owner of Gola Restaurant.

Gola Restaurant opened five months ago. Bouzidi said it was a dream to open his business on this street, but lately it's been a nightmare.

MORE: SF supervisors explore offering bounties for reporting of drivers blocking bike lanes

"We have seen the worst. Deliveries... we cannot get out deliveries on time. I cannot park my car to unload my groceries in front. I get a ticket," said Bouzidi.

Supervisor Hilary Ronen represents the Mission District. She said her office has been swamped with hundreds of messages from cyclists complaining about the safety aspect of the bike lane. Supervisor Ronen is proposing a solution.

"If they made it a one-way street, maybe we can have a place for people to double park. We can have bike lanes that are on the side of the streets, and we could engineer things so both sides can be happier," said Supervisor Ronen.

Sustainable transportation advocate Luke Bornheimer is calling for change.

"It's either to pedestrianize the street or install curb side protected bike lanes immediately. Not wait any longer. We've already had an 80-year-old man die and many more people injured and many close calls where people were almost hit. So, we don't need to wait for another person to be killed or injured, we need the SFMTA board of directors to act now," said Bornheimer.

MORE: Big changes coming to 2 Financial District streets as SFMTA gears up to create two-way bike lane

On Monday, during the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, the Citizen's Advisory Committee made strong recommendations to end the pilot program.

"The SFMTA CAC recommends abandoning the unintuitive and dangerous center-running bicycle lane pilot on Valencia and refocusing the street towards its corridor needs."

In a statement, SFMTA acknowledged the impacts of the bike lane and said in part:

"We are committed to continued changes throughout the pilot period to optimize the available space to the extent possible."

As it stands, business owners like Bouzidi don't think they can wait for the pilot program to run its course.

"Within a year, this street will die completely if this continues. This street will die and then it will be conducting CPR on a dead body, pretty much. Try to revive a thing that is dead already. Too late. You have to catch it right now," said Bouzidi.

The SFMTA Board of Directors did not make a decision Monday. Supervisor Ronen is urging the public to contact SFMTA with opinions.

Full SFMTA statement:

"SFMTA understands that deliveries and loading are critical for small businesses, on Valencia and throughout San Francisco. Of all the potential design options for protected bike lanes on Valencia, the center bike lane pilot provides the most curb space to meet local business needs. All other options for protected bike lanes would result in even more significant changes.That said, SFMTA also understands that implementation of the center bike lane has resulted in many changes to parking availability, and to how businesses receive deliveries. SFMTA continues to monitor the parking and loading needs along the corridor and meet with stakeholders including the merchant community, and we are committed to continued changes throughout the pilot period to optimize the available space to the extent possible.

We have made targeted changes to address specific merchant concerns. For instance, we relocated on-street bike racks near Smitten to accommodate a larger loading zone. *And several six-wheel commercial loading zones are being converted to regular commercial loading zones to better accommodate merchant loading needs."

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