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

Luz Pena Image
Thursday, November 30, 2023
SF delays action on Valencia bike lane despite it 'killing' business
San Francisco Valencia Street business owners say they don't know how much longer their businesses can survive if the bike lane is not revised.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The evaluation report on San Francisco's controversial Valencia Street center bike lane was scheduled to be released at the end of this year, but now it's been postponed.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena has been following this story for months and spoke to business owners who don't know how much longer their businesses can survive if the bike lane is not revised.

A month ago, we introduced you to Eiad and Rafik - two business owners on Valencia Street who've been struggling to survive. They blame the center bike lane for the decline in business. We caught up with them on Wednesday.

"We chatted a month ago. What is happening today? Today - as of today, I decided to close today. Just today not permanently. No reservations whatsoever. Zero business. So I rather close today than having staff at a loss," said Rafik Bouzidi, owner of Gola Restaurant.

"How are things going now? Horrible. Really, really bad. Businesses keep going down. Customers keep complaining about the bike lane," said Eiad Eltawil, owner of Yasmin restaurant

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

Eiad is falling behind on personal bills to be able to pay his staff.

"We are really struggling right now. We are paying them out of our own pockets," said Eiad Eltawil.

The Valencia Street bike lane was approved in April of this year as a 12-month pilot program, leading to the removal of about 70 parking spots.

That lack of parking is what some say is killing their business.

SFMTA was expected to release an evaluation of the bike lane by the end of the year, but last week, the director announced:

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

"We will continue to make adjustments while we do our larger and more formal evaluation that will be coming to you with in early 2024," said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA director.

We followed up with SFMTA and over email, they said:

"The data gathering started later than anticipated so we'll have to start early 2024 in order to have three months of reliable data."

Sustainable transportation advocate, Luke Bornheimer says even cyclists are reporting the need for a new design.

"All the signs are really clear that this bikeway design is not working," said Bornheimer, "People are sandwiched between driving cars and trucks. We are seeing the conditions of some of these plastic posts here - most of them have been hit or run over or destroyed, those could be people's bodies."

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

The latest survey by the Valencia Street Merchants Association found that almost 64% of people "hate" the center bike lane and 2% said they loved it.

"It has gone down a lot ever since the bike lane was built," said Michael Ho, owner of Chick-n-time, "I think I lost about 20% of revenue due to parking. I'm here every day and they are out here even at night giving tickets."

In the meantime, they are protesting the bike lane with these posters while keeping their doors open as long as they can.

"Every week, a restaurant shuts down. A business shuts down. Here it is this week - Armandos Bar on Valencia and 24th closed doors," said Bouzidi.

SFMTA said they are continuing to make changes including changing some loading zones into customer parking.

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

Full SFMTA statement:

"The SFMTA is committed to making Valencia Street a safe and inviting place for everyone, and that includes businesses, residents, those who drive in the area and those who walk, bike and roll. The corridor is a dynamic and culturally important part of our city, and we want it to prosper both now and for years to come.

We want businesses on the Valencia corridor to thrive, and we want to do everything we can to support them. That's why last week, we temporarily adjusted the type and duration of many of the loading zones on Valencia Street between 15th and 23rd streets and on several side streets (18th, 19th, 20th, 22nd) to create more general parking availability in the neighborhood.

These changes will help customers who drive patronize Valencia businesses while keeping the street safe for people on foot, bicycles and scooters. Small businesses are an important part of all that makes San Francisco the incredibly special city that it is, and we all benefit when they succeed.

These temporary changes will be in effect while the project team evaluates permanent curb changes that would be made in early 2024.

We turned just over a third (34%) of the loading zones that we recently installed into general parking after 12 noon. We turned the vast majority (82%) of the new loading zones into general parking after 6 p.m. previously they ended at 10 p.m.

The reason there are fewer parking spaces on the street is because there's more competition for curb space. Shared Spaces parklets, which have been a lifeline for struggling businesses, are taking up some of the curb space that was previously general parking. And some other parking spaces had to be turned into loading zones. Without the loading zones, delivery drivers double park, which creates a dangerous situation for drivers as well as for people on bikes when someone has to veer around a double-parked vehicle.

In addition to on-street parking, the SFMTA also operates two garages in the neighborhood: the Mission-Bartlet garage at 3255 21st Street and Hoff garage at 41 Hoff Street off of 16th Street. Garage pricing and up to date information is available on the Demand-Responsive

Parking Pricing page on our website (SFMTA.com/ParkingRates).

This SFMTA blog post has additional information: Temporary Parking Changes Will Support Valencia Street Businesses | SFMTA

As we move forward, SFMTA staff plan to return to the agency's Board of Directors in early 2024 with an update on how the pilot project is performing. Safety, economic vitality, and movement/access of people and goods have been our project priorities, and our evaluation will encompass a comprehensive range of factors."

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