And the bikes win!

L to R: Charlotte Jeffreys, Bethany Fleishman, Sharon Racusin, Marcia Cassidy, Martha McDaniel, Scot Drysdale, and Hilde Ojibway. Photo: Aaron Brown

A chilly autumn morning greeted 5 volunteers and 3 Vital Communities staff members who met in front of Dan and Whit’s to test an interesting question: Is it fastest to get from Norwich to Hanover during rush hour by taking the bus, riding a bike, or driving alone and finding parking? It was October 21, a normal Tuesday workday, and traffic was thick while the competitors waited for the bus to arrive. Three cyclists with varying levels of equipment were there. Scot sported a recumbent bicycle, which are exceptionally efficient converters of pedal power to speed. On the opposite spectrum was Hilde’s used purple Schwinn, an unassuming but serviceable machine.

Vital Communities Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown had cyclists and drivers sign a pledge to follow all traffic laws while participating – no speeding cars, no bikes running red lights or stop signs, etc. This would be a fair and legal race. Then the familiar sight of a white and blue Advance Transit bus turned right at the Norwich Inn at little after 8 am.

Valley News reporter James Patterson joined Aaron, Bethany, and Charlotte on the Advance Transit Brown Route bus. The race began when they boarded. The two drivers – Martha and Marcia – headed off in pursuit of the lots where they normally park for work – one at Dewey and the other at Thompson Arena. Riding on the bus, it was hard to keep track of the two cars due to the steady stream of other vehicles in the left lane. The cyclists, however, were easy to spot. Scot blazed ahead with his safety flag flying several feet above his bike.

The bus and bikes traded the lead a few times going down Route 5. But, right after the I-91 northbound exit ramp, the bus hit traffic. It was clear early on that the bikes would win. The bus riders continued to look for the cars but couldn’t see them.

The bus riders arrived at the finish line at the Hopkins Center about 11.5 minutes after boarding at Dan and Whit’s. Scot, Hilde, and the third cyclist, Sharon, were all waiting for them. Scot had arrived there first. His ride took little more than 9 minutes. Hilde barely beat the bus, but she made sure to “keep the results neat and clean” by keeping all cyclists in the winner category.

The group waited for the drivers to arrive. And waited. And waited. Finally, after the 20-minute mark, Marcia emerged from the side of the Hopkins Center, where she had walked from Thompson. The group enjoyed coffee and pastries and waited for Martha to arrive. It took her more than 30 minutes to join the group!

We had guessed that the bikes or bus would win, but we didn’t think the differences would be so drastic. Thanks to good bus service, a separated bike lane, and no need to find parking, biking and taking the bus are the fastest, most convenient ways to get into Hanover at rush hour. Plus, Zipcars are available on Dartmouth’s campus, which means one can enjoy a shorter commute and still have access to a car during the day for meetings or errands.

Celebrate Sustainable Transportation Week

Do you love all the great transportation options in our community? Join Vital Communities in celebrating our region as a model for sustainable rural transportation this fall. We’re hosting a week-long commuter challenge, a forum on transportation with local candidates for state office, rally-point rideshare, and an exciting bus vs. bike vs. car challenge!

October 20-24: Fall Way to Go! Challenge

Pledge to leave your car behind at least one day this week and join Vital Communities as we aim to collectively save $10,000 in fuel costs in just one week! You can participate by carpooling, biking, walking, taking a bus, or even by working from home. Sign up here.

October 20: Rally-Point Rideshare at the Windsor-Hartland Park-and-Ride

Have you ever heard of slugging, the phenomenon in some urban areas where drivers pick up passengers at designated rally points to use the carpool lanes? Ever wonder if that way of meeting carpool buddies could work in a region like ours? Well, we’re going to give it a try!

The renovations of the Hartland-Windsor park-and-ride off I-91 are nearly complete, and we’re going to celebrate the improvements by hosting rideshare meetups at 7:30 am, 8 am, and 8:30 am. Come meet your neighbors, enjoy free coffee and pastries, and form a new carpool.

Rain date: October 23

October 21: Bike, Bus, or Car: What’s the Quickest Way from Norwich to Dartmouth?

Do you commute from Norwich to Hanover each morning? Are you tired of dealing with the traffic at the Ledyard Bridge or the hassle of parking far from work? Ever wonder about the fastest, most convenient way to get to work?

We’ve asked ourselves this question and are putting it to a test. On October 21, we’ll see if it’s best to bike, bus, or drive alone to work from Norwich to Dartmouth College. Stay tuned for the results!

Rain date: October 24

October 22: Second Bi-State Candidates Forum on Transportation and Land Use

Join us at West Lebanon’s Kilton Library at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 22, for a lively conversation with local candidates for state senate and house seats. Our theme for the evening is transportation and land use, and you’ll have an opportunity to let your potential future leaders know your concerns about the topics – and they’ll have an opportunity to let you hear their potential solutions.