Oxford is a busy town, especially while the university is in session. This means more vehicles are on the streets causing traffic and parking issues. However, alternate transportation, such has buses, bikes and walking, is slowly catching on among residents.
Stephen Valliant, an Ole Miss Bike Shop employee, resident of Oxford since 1996, and an avid bike-enthusiast, said Oxford has the potential for bike use growth, but it needs more attention and awareness.
“The Pathways Commission does a good job bringing awareness to bikes,” said Valliant.
The Pathways Commission strives to increase and diversify transportation and recreation opportunities in Oxford by designating and creating bike lanes, pedestrian sidewalks, and by adding multi-use paths.
“The Ole Miss Bike Shop started through the Department of Parking and Transportation originally, but now we have our own building designated to helping students and faculty,” said Valliant.
He said the bike program was established to serve students, offer onsite repairs and make commuting easier. When he first started working on campus, the Ole Miss Bike Shop had between 30 to 40 bikes. “Now, in a semester, we have a little over 200 bikes,” he said.
Valliant said these numbers indicate the demand for bikes is on the rise, but he’s not sure Oxford is a “biking community” just yet.
“When you look at the Southeast schools, Oxford is one of the smallest biking communities,” he said. “Athens, Georgia and Gainesville, Florida are in the double digits. Oxford, aside from on-campus, there’s one bike-specific shop.”
Oxford isn’t quite there, but Valliant said the town is still moving in right direction.
“The Pathways Commission recently helped add posts on Gertrude Ford Boulevard where there is a shared bike lane,” he said. “They advocate keeping streets safe for all users.”
The Ole Miss Bike Shop runs a bike maintenance clinic with the help of the University Police Department.
“Clinics like this bring awareness to bikes,” Valliant said, “which is always a positive, not just for the school, but the community in general, since it’s open to anyone who’s interested.
Bike Walk Mississippi is another organization they work with, and clubs, such as Oxford Cycling and Thacker Mountain Trails, all help promote bikes.
The promotion of bikes may lead to more bike use, which would reduce vehicle use in Oxford, one of the goals of the Pathways Commission.
Lieutenant David Mahaffey, of the Oxford Police Department, believes bicycles are a great transportation alternative. “You will have less vehicles on the streets, which means the chance for an accident to occur is far less, ” he said.
Mahaffey said “using bikes requires common sense and it requires people to be more observant of their surroundings.”
Bicycle theft does happen, but, “The use of a bike lock more times than not can help stop things like that,” said Valliant, who also suggests registering your bike. If found, the owner can be contacted.
“If the volume of vehicles decrease, and the volume of bikes were to increase, our jobs would become easier,” Mahaffey said. “Less accidents make our job easier.”