By Nick Fendinger, For The Miami Student and Emily Williams, Assistant News Editor
Miami has seen a renewed interest in biking from students and faculty, fueling more opportunities for Oxford cyclists including new student-run bicycle rentals and repairs.
Robert Feldman, known to many as "Biker Bob," has been working with Miami students and their bikes since 1997, first at Hueston Woods and now as an instructor for a mountain biking course that was introduced last year through the Kinesiology and Health department.
Current and former students from that course are launching the new bike rental and repair service. The operation will be housed on the first floor of the Campus Avenue Garage on Friday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m.
To make the service affordable, customers will pay primarily for the cost of parts, and labor will be free.
"People want to get their bikes fixed for cheap," Feldman said.
The students doing the repairs can earn credit toward equipment for their own bikes.
The bike rentals will be available for classes to rent, and Feldman hopes to collaborate with the Admissions Office to start offering campus bike tours to prospective students.
"We're trying to get more people on bikes and outdoors," Feldman said. "Biking has been going on here since bikes were invented, but it's dropped off in the past decade or so."
A school statute used to ban students from having cars on campus, said Feldman. So, for many years, bikes were the primary mode of transport for most students.
According to Doug Hamilton, the owner of the Oxford bike shop BikeWise, before that ban was lifted, it wasn't uncommon for them to sell roughly 1,000 bikes before the start of school.
Although the student-to-bike ratio is still not what it used to be, Hamilton noted a recent uptick in bike purchases and repairs.
"There definitely seems to be more people riding bikes in Oxford nowadays," Hamilton said.
Hamilton, whose shop offers customers free bike storage over winter and summer months, said he sees few downsides to traveling by bike.
"The one disadvantage I see to bicycling in Oxford is that there are a lot of hills," Hamilton said.
Geography professor David Prytherch, himself an avid cycler, praised the benefits of biking on campus.
"Factor in parking, and biking to class is by far the fastest way to get from point to point," Pytherch said. "That, and it's good exercise and fun."
Senior Eric Niehaus said he saves about 15 minutes a day by riding his bike around campus, meaning over the course of one school year, he saves about two days' worth of time by biking.
Also motivated by the efficiency of biking, first-year Evan Helchin has been riding his bike to every class, every day since he came to Miami.
"I like how I can wake up five minutes before class and still get there on time," Helchin said. "I intend to ride my bike all four years here."
Niehaus also brought a bike to campus his first year at Miami. After a teasing comment was made by another student about his mode of transportation, he hung up the bike for the next few years.
This year, however, he said the convenience of riding his bike would be well worth any possible teasing.
"I'm riding again to assert my individuality," he said.