A college student friend of mine wants a new bike, which would be his first since the Wal-Mart special he had when he was a kid. Something along the lines of a commuter bike, or a hybrid. His thumbs don't work up to spec so I think he'd be better served by a single speed (not a fixie) or something with twist shifters.
Flat bars is good, street tires are good, and a suspension fork is good (but not a deal-breaker).
I called the LBSes and checked the usual web sites but there's not a lot of low-end bikes that check all the boxes, and it's not a market segment I keep up with, so I thought I'd ask here.
Any suggestions, online or chain store? His budget is $300.
Windsor The Hour Plus, 2014 Novara Verita, Schwinn Trailway
For $300, I'd go with the Windsor Timeline. It comes with a freewheel by default, is ready for racks, fenders, etc. and can fit wide tires. No suspension fork, but the steel frame and fork should be fine for college student use and more.