The newest sources of information in Oxford are getting some peculiar looks and some strange questions, but it’s all part of the effort to promote local events and businesses.
The Enjoy Oxford Ambassador Bike has been parked in Uptown park on Saturday mornings, answering questions from local residents and visitors alike looking for something to do. Also making a regular appearance Uptown is Oxford Lane Library’s Bike-Mobile, which features a specially-created book rack filled with children’s books and a small collection of books for older readers.
Taylor Meredith, who works in the office of Enjoy Oxford, formerly the Oxford Visitor’s Bureau, took the bike out for their first Ambassador Hours last August and used it until the weather turned colder in October.
She said they use the attached insulated cooler for brochures, maps, trail guides and information about Enjoy Oxford. With its umbrella set up, it is very visible.
“The umbrella is important,” Meredith said. “It says, ‘Information’ and it’s eye-catching and cute. Mostly before it people thought we were selling something.”
She admitted to some early close calls riding the bike, saying her first time out, she nearly hit a parking meter.
Other than that, Meredith said it’s simple.
“Try to look as friendly as possible and not scare anybody,” she said.
Bethany MacMillan recently took over the job of taking the bike out during the weekly farmers market.
“We get a good mix of locals who ask what there is to do for the week and visitors who ask where to eat and the best beer when they find out I graduated from Miami. We get a little of everything,” she said, laughing when she recalled the strangest question she had been asked. “I was asked to spell Oxford, backward. So, yes, I can spell Oxford backward.”
As for riding the bike the one block from the office to the park corner, MacMillan said that is not a problem.
“You just have to take wide turns. You get used to it,” she said.
Meredith said many out-of-town parents of Miami University students ask about restaurants, but admits a weakness when she takes the bike out.
“For me, the hardest thing is when people want directions. I’m not good at directions,” she said.
The bike’s attached thermal box for brochure storage is also attracting one specific request.
“People ask if I have Popsicles,” MacMillan said. “I hope we will be able to get Popsicles. I hope we can add them.”
But for now, she said, “I can tell people where you can get them in town.”
From the Oxford Lane Library’s Bike-Mobile, library patrons can check out the featured selection of books out on the spot, said Chad Wonsik, who was on hand one recent Saturday morning.
“Last summer, Oxford Lane Library Branch Manager Rebecca Smith brought pictures of one she had seen in Canada. She had a lot of pictures and asked if we could do that,” Wonsik said. “I worked on it and came up with this.”
Looking at the Enjoy Oxford bike, he said he was thinking of an upgrade in the future, but is happy with what they have.
“This is a trial run. It’s going really well,” he said.
The Bike-Mobile is keeping a more regular appearance schedule this year after its initial roll-out late last year.
“We’ve been lucky with the weather. Last summer, the first time we took it out, we had a downpour and had to run for cover,” Wonsik said.
The library’s Bike-Mobile will be Uptown every other Saturday morning from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. until the Farmer’s Market closes down its weekly operation.
The Bike-Mobile will also see duty in conjunction with the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department with a story time at the Oxford Community Park on Mondays, beginning Aug. 7 and running through September.
While it was Jessica Greene, director of Enjoy Oxford, who formally approached city council about allowing the two bikes to use the Uptown parks on Saturday mornings, both efforts started separately.
Wonsik said he called about getting approval and was told Enjoy Oxford was looking at doing the same thing.
“Great minds run the same, I guess,” he said.