Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Ole Miss Bike Shop: Getting Bikes Back in Business

By Brianna Stiebling
IMC student

A bike sits ready to rent in front of the Ole Miss Bike Shop. Photo by Briana Stiebling

Located behind Lester Hall on the Kennon Observatory loop, the Ole Miss Bike Shop operates and serves the cycling needs of students, faculty and the Oxford community. The shop was established in 2014 following the Office of Sustainability’s efforts to create Rebel Pedals, a bike-share program. The program began with only 30 donated bicycles at their disposal, but today, The Bike Shop has a fleet of over 150 refurbished bicycles for rent. The store has become so popular, it often racks up waiting lists up to three pages long.

The bike rental program at the Ole Miss Bike Shop allows anyone with an Ole Miss ID to rent a bike and lock for $30. With this rental, the student will receive ownership of the bicycle for an entire semester, meaning it can be taken anywhere, including off-campus.

A group of rental bikes sit idle in the Ole Miss Bike Shop. Photo by Brianna Stiebling

In addition to rentals, customers can register their own bikes for free, which is a preemptive service that allows for missing or stolen bikes to be tracked anywhere in the country.  Stephen Valliant, an operator of the Ole Miss Bike Shop, has recovered bikes from as far away as Washington D.C. It is also open to the public for lightweight repairs including tune-ups, tire repair, or for the purchasing of safety equipment and small parts. Because they are not a distributor of any brand, prices are based on labor.

However, in the midst of COVID-19, demand for bikes has fallen due to a decreasing number of international students who normally comprise a large percentage of renters. Only around 60-70 bikes have been rented this semester in comparison to the usual 150 in previous years. 

Bikes under repair are scattered across the Ole Miss Bike Shop. Photo by Brianna Stiebling

“The Bike Shop is a strategic priority for our department”, said director of the Department of Parking and Transportation Samuel Rea Patterson. “Biking provides excellent first and last mile solutions for students, faculty, and staff. Along with our O.U.T shuttles, biking is an important aspect of our mobility initiatives across campus.”

Once awarded a Bronze Award as Bicycle Friendly University in 2015 by the League of American Bicyclists, Ole Miss is still an avid promoter of active transportation modes. “Our campus is very much bike-friendly, but user-awareness remains a concern”, said Valliant. 

Ole Miss stresses bike safety through their Rules of the Road, which emphasizes helmet use, traffic laws, and predictability and visibility through hand signals and reflective clothing.

“I envision exploring a one-credit bike course in which students will learn how to safely bike across campus and Oxford,” said Patterson. “I also envision looking at other possible alternatives for a bike shop with more space and perhaps a large conference room for bike-related classes and trainings. I am confident the margins of riders will only go up with intentional design, programs and making cycling a priority with our transportation demand programs.”

More information regarding safety tips and the Ole Miss Bike Shop can be found at https://bike.olemiss.edu/.