Bike lanes draw ire of Ocean Avenue merchants

Shopping at the Wiley’s Liquor store on Ocean Avenue used to be easy. Park your car, pop a few quarters into the meter, run in and grab some provisions, then leave.

In recent weeks, however, that simple excursion has become a lot more complicated, much to the chagrin of shop owner Senait Afewerki.

As part of the citywide bike plan, new cycling lanes have been installed on a six-block stretch of Ocean Avenue, taking away on-street parking spots in the Ingleside and Excelsior district neighborhoods.

Since the bike lanes were added in October, Afewerki said business at her convenience store has fallen by 15 percent. She also said that motorists who unknowingly park in the bike lanes have been quickly slapped with a $105 citation.

“No one can park in front anymore,” Afewerki said. “Our customers come here and then drive away because they’re afraid of getting parking tickets.”

With the street meters gone, motorists are now parking illegally at other places, notably in the lot at the Ocean Avenue Veterinary Hospital near the liquor store, which takes away spots from the center’s clients, said Sylvia Morrison, the site’s administrative coordinator.

The new bike plan aims to add 34 miles of cycling-only lanes to city streets, part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s initiative to transition residents to more sustainable modes of travel.

Renee Rivera, acting executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, said cyclists have applauded the new upgrades on Ocean Avenue. The lanes instill a sense of safety for cyclists, and make it easier for them to get to destination points, Rivera said.

However, public transit options are limited in the Excelsior and Ingleside neighborhoods, leaving cars as the preferred mode of travel for many residents, said Supervisor John Avalos, whose district includes Ocean Avenue.
In January, Avalos plans on meeting with merchants and planners to discuss the issue of lost parking spaces on Ocean Avenue. He said he hopes to find a reasonable compromise, such as some sort of shared-parking plan at the Beep’s Burger lot, at the corner of Ocean and Lee avenues, which is rarely full.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is also working with the community to find parking alternatives that make up for losses to the commercial district.

Until a parking agreement is reached, merchants on the corridor said they will continue to lose business because of the new bike lanes.

“This is a huge inconvenience for us,” said Mary Toong, who runs Bay Circle Printing on Ocean Avenue. “Our customers are parking three blocks away just to run in and pick up a stack of papers.”

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