Stowe is one of the prettiest towns in one of the prettiest states in the country to drive through, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to get through it more quickly than they should.
Enter the “Collectors,” a small group of people who have decided to drive at exactly the speed limit on Moscow Road and Maple Street, forcing everyone behind them to do the same.
In the past few months, discussion cropped up on social media after Moscow resident Tom Hamilton referred to the area as the Moscow Speedway, and introduced the idea of “Collectors” to the community.
“For a bit of history, Michael Adams, longtime resident of Moscow, was the first Collector, as he loved driving through town with a dozen or more cars behind him,” Hamilton wrote on Sept. 7. “Mike liked to start collecting at Ten Acres Lodge, down Barrows Road, then Moscow Road, pulling off at the old schoolhouse after the bridge in Moscow.
“He would have appreciated the new community effort, keeping in mind that you are only helping others do the right thing.”
After Hamilton’s post, a lively back-and-forth ensued over the next several weeks, as people debated the merits of passing on the right and using cruise control at 25 mph, whether there are enough police patrols in that area, and whether it’s actually possible to drive so slowly without riding the brakes the whole time.
“When I was a young man visiting Stowe in the mid-’80s, we would never speed through Moscow because of the police presence. Now I rarely see them,” wrote Joseph Cascio.
George Townsend wrote that the shortcut between Route 100 and Mountain Road via Moscow and Barrows roads used to be one that only locals knew about, “to bypass town during ski season.”
“Now we have signs pointing the ‘alternate route’ way,” Townsend wrote.
John Nichols dismissed that view, arguing that the “standard” residential speed in Stowe is 35 mph, not 25.
“It is time to wake up to the reality that Moscow is no longer a village and is just a cut-through to Mountain Road,” Nichols wrote.
Some suggested that drivers try harder to obey the speed limit, like Michael Kleinheinz, who wrote, “What's the big deal with following traffic laws? The 25 mph speed limit is for less than a mile, the whole two minutes it takes you is so horrible?”
Tamara Burke brought science into her argument for slower speeds.
“Strike something at 35 mph and you're exerting a force of 23.800 pounds of force on impact. Striking something at 25 mph cuts that force in half,” Burke wrote.
Some people treated the whole thing with humor, like Jason McDonald, who wrote that settling the debate about speeding in town “would allow readers and posters of (Front Porch Forum) to move on to the next controversy, like those squirrels chewing on our phone lines because that's the only way to possibly explain the abysmal phone and internet service around here.”
After weeks of this, Hamilton, the originator of the “Collector” idea, reported that actual change came from the awareness, such as more people getting on the Collector bandwagon. He noted the Stowe Police Department also stepped up its presence.
Slow is the new fast
Moscow is only one of the 25-mph areas in Stowe, and not even the busiest.
Maple Street (Route 100) is the northern entry into Stowe village, and it is also the beginning of the slow roll through town.
Wendyll Behrend lives on Maple Street, and she was positively giddy to realize that “I’ve been a Collector all this time, without knowing that’s what it was called.”
In an indication that slow just might be the new fast, Behrend said there’s a genuine rush from feeling like you’re doing something wrong by fastidiously going exactly the speed limit, or even lower. That’s because so many people get annoyed with actually having to go the speed limit that they can get borderline road rage.
“That’s the most amusing part,” she said. “I do feel mischievous, and I do feel like I have power.”
Police Chief Donald Hull said that “if anybody wants to drive up the road and do the speed limit, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Hull said people purposely driving slow to calm the flow of traffic are using techniques similar to those property owners who post heart-tugging signs that say “drive like your kids live here.”
Hull also pointed out that a speed limit is just that.
“It’s the maximum speed under ideal conditions,” he said. “You always want to drive at the speed that’s good for the conditions.”
Perhaps Richard Anderson said it most succinctly, when he posted on Oct. 25, “Yup, I'm a Collector. You can follow me through Beautiful Downtown Moscow. At 25 mph of course.”