SFMTA's exec. director responds to Valencia Street bike lane concerns

Melanie Woodrow Image
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
SFMTA's exec. director responds to Valencia St. bike lane concerns
SFMTA's executive director responds to residents and business owners' concerns about the Valencia Street bike lane pilot program.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Business owners and residents opposed to the Valencia Street center bike lane held a press conference Tuesday before heading to an SFMTA meeting to urge officials to remove it.

At least one cyclist had to maneuver through the crowd standing in the Valencia Street Center bike lane Tuesday as people called for SFMTA to make a change.

Members of the Latinx Democratic Club, community leaders and Valencia small business owners want to see this pilot project removed.

"The SFMTA just continually, continually overlooks the concerns of the stakeholders in the areas they're talking to," said Angela Tickler.

For months, residents and small business owners have said they're suffering. They say the proposed center bike lane has been linked to small business closures, increased traffic fatalities and a drop in foot traffic.

MORE: SF delays action on controversial bike lane despite many reporting it's 'killing' business

"We've been in business for 33 years and this is the worst 6 months that we've ever seen," said Nikki Dewald, owner of Blondie's.

The project was supposed to have its first formal evaluation at the start of the new year. That's now been pushed to February.

"They don't have any data right now to support it. They promised to have the data now and then report out, but they don't," said Alan Burradell, who lives in the Castro.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin says they need more time due to adjustments that were made to the design of the bike lane and regulations around parking.

"People are saying that while you're making those adjustments, businesses are closing, they're dying, they're suffering, how do you respond to that?" asked ABC7 News reporter Melanie Woodrow.

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

"That is very concerning to us - one of our number one evaluation criteria for the street is small business success," said Tumlin.

Still, Tumlin says more retail performance data is needed to determine whether the bike lane itself is causing distress for small businesses.

"How many businesses would have to close potentially between now and August of 2024 for it to be removed? At what cost?" asked Woodrow.

"So again, one of the things we're trying to understand is to what degree are the concerns the Valencia merchants are facing, to what degree is that directly related to the bikeway or is it related to other city-wide factors? Again, here in downtown San Francisco merchants are also really struggling," said Tumlin.

"These merchants seem to think that this is about the bike lane - that's what they're telling us. Are you not hearing that message? Is it not getting to you?" asked Woodrow.

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

"Oh we are working with all the merchants, we are walking the corridor and talking to all of the merchants and we hear a lot of differences of opinion, but one of the concerns that we hear most loudly right now is about bringing double parking back to the street," said Tumlin.

"There's always going to be cars in this town and it's difficult when the needs of a small percentage appear to be outweighing the needs of a lot more people in terms of merchants and residents," said Tickler.

Following the press conference, attendees moved to the SFMTA board meeting where they shared their concerns during the public comment period.

As for calls Tumlin be fired --

"I serve the pleasure of the SFMTA board and I am going to continue to happily serve them until I'm told that it's time to get somebody else," said Tumlin.

Tumlin says he's planning to walk the corridor Wednesday and continue speaking with small business owners and residents to gather more information. The pilot ends at the end of August 2024 but the SFMTA board can make a decision at any time prior to that to remove the project.

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