Since 1985, when it was codified into Massachusetts law, Memorial Drive closes to cars "from the last Sunday in April through the second Sunday in November" from 11am to 7pm. During this time, the closed portions of Memorial Drive is known as Riverbend Park, and is open for people to walk, bike, roll, and otherwise enjoy the outdoors and the Charles River.
In 2020 and 2021, Riverbend Park, which currently extends from Western Avenue to Gerry's Landing, was expanded to include both Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 7pm on each day. This was part of an effort to create more outdoor space and allow for social distancing, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In 2022, Riverbend Park hours were further extended, beginning at 8am on Saturdays and continuing through 7pm on Sundays.
Proposals to expand Riverbend Park
The popularity of Riverbend Park has led to proposals to expand the geographic coverage of the park to other sections of Memorial Drive, so that it is more accessible to residents living in the eastern half of the city.
A policy order that passed in City Council in March 2022 requested the City Manager work with DCR to look at an extension of the Memorial Drive closures to sections east of Western Ave as a matter of equity. In June 2022, a City Council policy order proposed a pilot closure of Memorial Drive near MIT, and was passed unanimously, with amendments.
The policy order was filed by Cllr. Zondervan and requested that the City Manager pilot a closure of Memorial Drive in the eastbound direction from Amesbury Street to Land Boulevard, while retaining appropriate access to MIT river facilities, Charles River Yacht Club, and Crimson Sailing Academy. Eastbound traffic would be detoured via Amesbury, Vassar, Galileo Galilei, and Binney streets. It also requested that DCR and all relevant city departments implement such a pilot project over one or more weekends in the summer and fall of 2022. Additionally, amendments were included that incorporated language about family programming and called for at least two public engagement sessions including the East Cambridge, Port, Wellington Harrington, and Central Square neighborhoods.