Cambridge residents rail against proposed Memorial Drive closures


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City councilors are considering rolling back pandemic-era Saturday closures on the roadway.

Runners along Memorial Drive in Cambridge.
Lane Turner / Globe Staff

Cambridge residents are at odds over a proposal to reduce weekend closures of Memorial Drive to just Sundays.

Also known as Riverbend Park, Memorial Drive is a waterfront recreation space for cyclists, skaters and pedestrians.

The Harvard Crimson reported that city councilors debated on Monday whether Memorial Drive’s weekend closings on Saturdays and Sundays still benefit the community two years after they went into effect.

Seasonal weekend roadway closures began in April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and have remained in effect between April and November each year since then. The closure ensures vehicles remain off the road between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, providing open street access for public recreation.

But city officials say the road closure is negatively impacting residents who are battling increased traffic due to displaced vehicles.

Proponents of the reduction say the Saturday closings made sense at the height of the pandemic, when traffic was low. But now, they say, there are more motorists on the road and a greater need to keep traffic flowing.

Councilors also argue that in 2020 the public was unable to determine whether weekend closures were welcome in the community.

But the recent proposal has sparked backlash from residents who want to keep Memorial Drive safe for pedestrians enjoying outdoor activities.

Around 2,200 local cyclists have signed a Cambridge Bicycle Safety petition against the reduced closures, the Crimson reported.

The petition also asks the city council to expand the park on longer stretches of Memorial Drive.

“Memorial Drive/Riverbend Park is more than just a place where people can ride their bikes; it’s a place where people can congregate safely outdoors, away from the noise and dangers of cars,” Cambridge Bicycle Safety tweeted Friday.

Frustrated residents spoke out at Monday’s council meeting saying traffic was “overwhelming” due to Saturday’s closures.

“We are hostages to another day. How can we justify such an inconvenience and impact on and in our community, affecting various streets by pushing traffic in front of our homes? said resident Sheila Headley-Burwell, according to the Crimson Report. Another resident said he had to sit in 20 minutes of traffic near his home, due to the closures.

The board deferred voting on the proposal.



Boston

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