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Here’s Why This Business Owner Went on Hunger Strike to Protest Newly Opened Bike Lane

The protestors and businesses demand the immediate removal of the bike lane and compensation for losses caused by the construction.
PUBLISHED APR 15, 2024
Cover Image Source: A bicyclist rides on a new bicycle lane put on hold due in Berlin, Germany | Getty Images | Photo by Sean Gallup
Cover Image Source: A bicyclist rides on a new bicycle lane put on hold due in Berlin, Germany | Getty Images | Photo by Sean Gallup

A San Francisco business owner is going on a 30-day hunger strike to protest a newly opened bike lane along Valencia Street. Eiad Eltawil whose family owns a Yasmin Syrian Restaurant and Rossi Mission SF, an artworks store, says that the completion of the protected bike lane has massively hurt businesses in the area.



Eltawil, 41 is currently on day 6 of his strike and is sleeping on the parklet outside his business to bring attention to the consequences of the bike lane, San Fransico Chronicle reported. However, the city's Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) calls the bike lane a work in progress.

Elawill claims that the completion of the controversial bike lane eight months ago has a led to dozen or so businesses shuttering their doors. The Valencia bikeway is a 1.9-mile lane that runs from 15th Street through 23rd Street and to build it, the MTA removed 71 parking spots on Valencia. This seems to be the main problem of the business owners who claim that customers have stopped coming due to a lack of parking spots. Owners said they witnessed customers canceling their reservations after searching for parking for over half an hour, Daily Mail reported.

Representative Image | Unsplash | Photo by the blowup
No parking sign (Representative Image) | Unsplash | Photo by the blowup

Eltawil also said that a lack of parking for customers and staff deliveries will ruin businesses. Fellow restaurant owner, Michael Ho, who runs Chic’n Time in the area told FOX that he got two tickets ($92 each) in one week while unloading his things on the corner of 19th and Valencia.

Representative Image of a car parked with a parking ticket | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander
Representative Image of a car parked with a parking ticket | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander

Eltawil has displayed a sign outside the family-owned restaurant, denouncing the construction of the bike lane as “unfair, racist, Islamophobic policies” by “the mayor's office, the MTA, and the Valencia Street Merchants Association.” Eltawil also claims that at least thirty more businesses are going to shut down because of the bike lane. He says despite several attempts he has failed to talk to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and the Department of Public Works. He claims he was even kicked out by the Mayor's Office, so he opted for hunger strike as the last resort. "I don't want the bike lanes to be responsible for so many people losing their business," Eltawil told FOX. The protestors and businesses demand the immediate removal of the bike lane and compensation for losses caused by the construction. Nile Vignoles, who represents Valencia merchants, said the lane violates the civil rights of his clients as well as the city's charter which mandates that the city protect the economic welfare of its business in the Daily Mail report.

The Valencia bikeway is a first-of-its-kind project in San Francisco which is constructed to make the city’s most important north-south bike route safer for cyclists, according to the city's website. Thus, supporters of the lane, like Mike, told FOX that the businesses are blaming the bike lane for declining customers when their marketing and strategy could be more at fault.



However, several disagree that the safety objective of the bike lane has been met. According to SFMTA’s three-month evaluation of the bikeway, there have been 12 crashes between cyclists and cars which marks a higher accident rate than before the bike lane opened. The bike lane has led to other issues too as it eliminated left turns confusing drivers. As per SF Chronicle, last September, a left-turning driver killed an 80-year-old pedestrian at the crosswalk on Valencia and 18th streets.



Despite this, the SFMTA has claimed the lane is still under development. The MTA said it has talked to the parklet operators in Valencia about their loading needs to inform the design process.

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