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.