Green Fleet Bicycle Shop peddles history and a feel-good attitude
by Amanda Zhou
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—In 2009, Austin Bauman’s business was a bike courier service, which zipped time-sensitive legal and medical documents through city traffic. Today, that venture has turned into a bike rental, repair and guiding business.
Green Fleet Bicycle Shop, which expanded and moved from the Edgehill Village neighborhood to Jefferson Street in North Nashville, specializes in commuter bikes and a feel-good attitude.
A rainbow-painted hubcap with the words “Green Bikes” hangs above the water fountain, and the yard features a colorful painted school bus filled with bikes, a sculpture made from bike frames and a mural of jazz legends on bikes.
The store rents dozens of bikes every Saturday and fills up its 15-person bike tours every week, according to Philip Martindale, a Green Fleet manager.
The tour explores an unseen side of Nashville’s history, passing through abandoned warehouses in Germantown and Marathon Village. The exact route is never entirely clear and may include improvisation, Martindale said.
The shop’s location on Jefferson Street has a history of its own. Although only a handful of businesses neighbor Green Fleet today, the street used to be part of a thriving pre-integration business district for the black community. Three historically black universities are located nearby, and musicians such as Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix used to preform down the street.
The construction of Interstate 40 through the neighborhood ultimately forced businesses and homes to leave and caused an economic downturn. The highway was a “transportation disaster,” Bauman said.
“We like to think that having a bike shop can contribute to giving people another way to get around and experience what used to be a great street,” he added.
Bauman’s relationship with bikes started when he was a child in Georgia and culminated when he rode across the United States with his roommate after graduating from Vanderbilt University.
“That’s when I realized, bikes are a really great way to get around town and experience places,” he said.
In urban environments, commuting by bicycle holds the promise of reducing carbon emissions and traffic, while staying active. However, the perception of risk and price remains a large barrier for many.
Having a bike-friendly city starts with good infrastructure, Bauman said. That means connected street networks, bike lanes and designated traffic signals. While Nashville has made some progress, more is needed, he said.
“Every time you get one more person on a bike that forwards the conversation.” Bauman said.