Sunday, June 16, 2024

Participants in a Saturday “resistance ride” on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. (Photo: Tom Meek)

A state decision limiting hours on Cambridge’s Riverbend Park continues to upset cyclists, among others, who have literally taken their ire to the street in an ongoing series of Saturday protests – “reclaiming” briefly a lane of the roadway that would had been all-day open space in the recent past.

During the pandemic and into this year the state Department of Conservation and Recreation shut down Memorial Drive between Gerry’s Landing Road and Western Avenue to car traffic, making way for recreational use Saturdays and Sundays. The state announced April 3 it would return to the Sunday-only schedule that began in 1975 and was made law in 1985.

The City Council voted 7-2 on April 24 to support continued Saturday closings of Memorial Drive and ask formally for the state to reconsider its decision. That’s where the matter rested for more than two months, until on July 8, the Car Free Boston organization held its first Riverbend Park “block party” and resistance ride. In the events, John Burkhardt, a couple of fellow organizers and around 30 “volunteers” take over Memorial Drive for a leisurely 30-minute loop of the stretch that includes Riverbend Park.

The group’s goal is to get the state’s attention – and the return of Saturday traffic shutdowns. On the July 15 ride, state Rep. Mike Connolly joined; this Saturday, city councillor Marc McGovern showed up. A knee problem kept McGovern from riding, but he discussed the importance of upcoming city elections on the issue, as three supporters of the city’s Cycling Safety Ordinance are stepping down: Alanna Mallon, Quinton Zondervan and Dennis Carlone.

A sign used during Saturday rides on Memorial Drive meant to send a message to cars that follow. (Photo: Tom Meek)

On a ride-along Saturday, the protest riders took up just one of four Memorial Drive lanes, and car drivers around them were for the most respectful and patient as the bikes slowed traffic. 

Burkhardt, an Arlington resident and biotech worker, said they’ll be back every Saturday and described Bike Free Boston and its activities as more “radical” than those of the Cambridge Bike Safety group, which spurred the Cycling Safety Ordinance.

“We’re more hands-on,” he said while rolling along.