May 21, 2024

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San Francisco restaurant owner Iyad Al-Taweel has gone on a hunger strike to protest bike lanes

San Francisco restaurant owner Iyad Al-Taweel has gone on a hunger strike to protest bike lanes

A San Francisco restaurant owner is in the middle of a month-long hunger strike, protesting the city's new bike lane trial that he claims is pushing his customers away.

Iyad Al-Taweel, 41, will spend the next month in the garden outside his storefront, without eating, to show his hatred for the new bike path built outside his shop.

The Taweel family runs Yasmine Al Souri restaurant and art store Rossi Mission SF out of the same building on Valencia Street in the city's Mission District.

In August, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unveiled a new two-way protected central bike lane designed to make the city's most important north-south bikeway safer, according to To the San Francisco Chronicle.

The bike lane project reduced the number of vehicle lanes to one side in each direction between 15th Street and 23rd Street in Valencia.

San Francisco restaurant owner Iyad Al-Tawil is in the middle of a 30-day hunger strike to protest a bike lane that drives his customers away. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube

The project also removed 71 parking spaces, which local business owners claim has reduced the number of their customers.

During his 30-day protest, Al-Taweel says he will sleep outside his art shop, consuming only water while distributing leaflets supporting his hunger strike.

Al-Taweel also wrote his complaints on the outside of the temporary building where he will make his home next month.

“Iyad, owner of Rossi and Yasmine, is committing to a 30-day hunger strike starting April 7 to protest the unfair, racist, and Islamophobic policies imposed on his business by the Mayor’s Office, the MTA, and the Valencia Street Merchants Association.

In August, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unveiled its new two-way protected central bike lane designed to make the city's most important north-south bikeway safer. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube
During his month-long hunger strike, Al-Taweel sleeps outside his work in a park along the street. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube

After being repeatedly fired by multiple departments and fired from the mayor's office, Al-Taweel hopes his fast will get the attention of city leaders who might change the bike lanes or he will be forced to close his beloved restaurant.

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“I've already suffered a lot,” Tawil said he told the outlet. “At least this way, maybe someone in power will see my struggle and make some changes. “It's a last resort for me.”

“I don't want bike lanes to be responsible for a lot of people losing their jobs,” Al-Taweel said.

“If I were in New York, I would have lines all over the building,” Rafik Bouzidi, a Tunisian restaurant owner, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But San Francisco is killing businesses, and it's that simple.”

Bouzidi claims he noticed that some people canceled their reservations at the only Tunisian restaurant in the city after searching for a parking space for 30 minutes.

Eight months after launching the 6-month trial, the SFMTA says the trial is in progress, According to KTVU.

There were 12 pedestrian-vehicle collisions reported in the bike lane's first three months of operation, a higher accident rate than before the bike lane opened, according to the Chronicle.

Al-Taweel is not too worried about the hunger strike because he and his company have suffered a lot since the construction of the new bike path. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube
The Taweel family runs Yasmine Al Souri restaurant and art store Rossi Mission SF out of the same building on Valencia Street in the city's Mission District. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube

In September, 80-year-old Jian Huang, who was crossing the street, was struck and killed by an SUV driver when he turned left into Valencia. According to SFGate.

Tawil's complaints about the bike lanes were met with mixed feelings from local residents, with some agreeing with his business owner, while others supported the city's program for more bike lanes.

Tawil's complaints about the bike lanes were met with mixed feelings from local residents, with some agreeing with his business owner, while others supported the city's program for more bike lanes. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube
Eight months after launching the 6-month trial, the SFMTA says the trial is in progress. ABC7 Bay Area News/YouTube

The SFMTA said it is working to listen to business owners and is adjusting the design to benefit everyone.

“We spoke to park operators in Valencia and received their feedback about their loading needs to inform the design process,” the agency told the outlet. “Our communication and collaboration will continue through the spring, as we work to find solutions that best protect businesses and cyclists on the trail.”