MANY motorists stuck in Southampton’s morning rush hour must have wondered if there’s an easier way to get to work.

Now it’s been proven there is – with a commuter race through the city centre.

As the Daily Echo continues with the Don’t be a Fuel Fool campaign, which looks at ways of getting around the rising costs at the pump, it’s been shown that ditching the car on the daily commute could save time as well as money.

A car driver, cyclist, walker and bus user set off at 8.30am from Southampton General Hospital yesterday morning to settle once and for all which is the quickest way to get across the city.

It was cyclist Thea Bjaalan, 30, from Portswood, who crossed the finish line at Guildhall Square first, having made the 3.5mile journey in a time of 15 minutes.

And she says she didn’t even pick the quickest route – but instead opted for a scenic ride through Southampton Common.

She said: “It was probably slightly quicker to go the road way but it was a really nice cycle ride through the common. The sun was shining, there were no cars – it was a treat and definitely better than being in the car and getting annoyed by the traffic lights and other drivers.”

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It was another nine minutes before car user Mike Buck, 28, from Peartree Road, Woolston, arrived at Guildhall Square.

He parked a four-minute walk away in the multi-storey car park in West Park Road, to simulate a typical commute for Southampton workers.

The start and finish points of the race

It was a journey that he estimates cost him nearly a tenner – around a pound for petrol and £8 to park for the day.

He said: “There was quite a lot of traffic. I was stuck at Hill Lane for a good five minutes, which was a bit frustrating, especially knowing Thea was whizzing through the traffic and I was stuck in my car. On a day like this I’d definitely prefer to cycle.”

Even though Nisha Sharma, 23, from Eastleigh, came in third on the bus, with a time of 31 minutes, she says there were benefits to using public transport.

She said: “I didn’t have to worry about parking, there was no big stress of being stuck in traffic. You can read a book, listen to your iPod or just look out the window.”

Walker Joe Maskell, 34, from the Bitterne Triangle, says he used the commute to brush up on his Spanish.

He said: “I walked at a leisurely pace – it was really great on such a sunny day.

“I’m trying to learn Spanish, so I was listening to that on my way to work – it’s a good opportunity to use the time.”

The event was organised to raise awareness of the Southampton Cycle Challenge, which takes place from May 9 to May 29 and is a competition to see which Southampton workplace can encourage the most people to cycle.