Bicyclist-led rally asks state to overturn decision limiting Riverbend Park to Sunday-only schedule
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation was urged at a Saturday rally of nearly 250 cyclists and activists to expand Memorial Drive traffic shutdowns for weekend recreational use, going from Sundays-only to a schedule of Saturdays and Sundays. Speakers included state Rep. Mike Connelly, Cambridge Bike Safety member Chris Cassa, Harvard College student and Harvard Crimson transportation columnist Clyve Lawrence and Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and city councillors Patty Nolan, Marc McGovern, Denis Carlone and Burhan Azeem.
During the past three years of Covid limitations on indoor gatherings, the state had expanded Memorial Drive recreational shutdowns known as “Riverbend Park” to be Saturday and Sunday, but decided April 3 to revert to just Sundays. Officials’ explanations have only raised more questions – and the ire of some residents and activists. Responding to an outcry, the City Council voted 7-2 on Monday to solicit more information and urge a reconsideration. Councilor E. Denise Simmons was the most vocal in opposition to the order, citing Riverbend Park’s disruption to underrepresented communities in the Riverside neighborhood.
At the rally, Connolly called the state’s decision “a miss.”
The riverside gathering was organized by the Memorial Drive Alliance, a group of residents and activists who want to see the public banks expanded and more accessible for all. The organization has been pushing the DCR on a Phase III revision plan targeting the expansion of the green space and recreational area, as well as improvements of paths from Western Avenue to the Boston University Bridge.
Cassa, who cited the turnout as “quite good for a gray day,” likened the gathering to the 1964 Citizens’ Emergency Committee campaign to save Memorial Drive when the Metropolitan District Commission, the predecessor to the DCR, wanted to remake it in the highway model of Storrow Drive, visible across the Charles River in Boston. Cassa concluded the rally with a call for all in attendance to contact the state and other local representatives to “respectfully” call for expanded weekend shutdowns to car traffic. Flyers with contact information were circulated to make the task easier.
The day began with the Mayor’s Bike Bonanza 2.0, the second annual bike ride by Siddiqui designed to promote safe cycling, the city’s expanding bike lane network and minority-owned businesses. About 100 cyclists, many families with young children, showed up at City Hall for the event. After brief speeches from Siddiqui and Lonnell Wells of the Cambridge Bike Give Back program, a nonprofit that gives refurbished bikes to those in need, participants were led on a 6-mile, police-escorted ride with stops at Oggi Gourmet in Harvard Square and La Saison Bakery off Concord Avenue, where free snacks and beverages were served to riders. The ride concluded at the rally.
I keep waiting for a compromise like specific hours like before (6:00am- 9:00PM?) it is rather overkill to have Mem drive closed for 2 days 24hrs a day. Even Councilor Zondervan had to use his car after surgery. And what about emergency vehicles?
The more efforts are made to promote harvard and central sqs nightlife, the harder it will be for out of towners to negotiate back streets. This is not “shared” streets.
Your link to Cambridge Bike Give Back is broken
If it’s like last year, it doesn’t get closed for 48 hours. By memory, the policy would close it maybe around 8-9 am and open it up again around 5-6 pm.
Sad the Saturday closing is gone. I live a block from memorial drive and went biking with my daughter every summer weekend the last two years.
*the police not policy but policy could also work I guess :)
@pete, that was definitely a big focus of the rally yesterday — we’re in agreement on finding compromises and solutions to make this work better for everyone: https://www.cambridgeday.com/2023/02/28/moving-past-the-debate-solutions-to-traffic-challenges-on-memorial-drive/
The fact that the DCR has not prioritized any of these potential solutions is a serious issue. Consequently, that’s what our charge was yesterday to the hundreds of people who showed up: ‘tell our elected officials and the DCR to figure out how to make this open space work for everyone’. We need our elected officials to step up, get on the horn with the DCR and ask ‘Why haven’t the traffic lights been sync’d a year later? Why isn’t there a weekend schedule for the lights when the traffic patterns and volumes are so different on Wednesdays vs. Sundays? Why haven’t they updated the lane markings which were changed in 2021?’ To me, it seems like a perfect opportunity to pilot and study these interventions, and we hope the Gov and the state delegation get that moving forward.
There are also clear opportunities for compromise, as you say, the overnight closures are not as beneficial earlier in the spring or later in the fall. They were truly helpful in summer, when many people came out later in the day on very hot July/August days. Part of the challenge here is that the City and overwhelmingly supportive City Council have advanced both general and specific points of compromise, but the DCR has not yet taken the lead on hashing them out. Again, our elected officials can work with the DCR here, and this is what we’re going to be pushing on in lockstep tomorrow.
I hope they can keep it going on saturdays. i’m baffled by opposition to this.
If you’re interested in sharing your thoughts with officials about this, it’s easy to take action — there’s a call-in number to get you started 617-299-8898 and you can go here for more information: