Courtesy of Vital Communities
A chilly autumn morning greeted five volunteers and three Vital Communities staff members who met in front of Dan and Whit’s to test an interesting question: Is it fastest to get from downtown Norwich, VT to the Hopkins Center at the south end of the Dartmouth Green in Hanover, NH during rush hour by taking the bus to the bus stand in front of the Hop, riding a bike there, or driving, finding parking and walking to the destination? It was October 21, a normal Tuesday workday, and traffic was heavy while the competitors waited for the bus to arrive. Three cyclists with varying levels of equipment were there. Scot sported a recumbent bicycle, which is an exceptionally efficient converter 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 Field on NH Rte 10 north of the Dartmouth campus, and the other at Thompson Arena on South Park Street. 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 above his bike.
The bus and bikes traded the lead a few times heading towards the LedyardBridge . But, right after passing under I-91, 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 HopkinsCenter 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 nine 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 HopkinsCenter, to which 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, the marked 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.
Zipcars, vehicles which can be rented by the hour or day, are available on Dartmouth’s campus. This additional transportation option means one can bike, walk, or take the bus and still have access to a car during the day for errands.
Learn more at: www.vitalcommunities.org/blog/index.php/and-the-bikes-win/.
Learn more about Darthmouth’s Zipcars at: www.zipcar.com/dartmouth.