Green Fleet: Bringing back bikes

Multicolored bikes spill out onto the narrow sidewalk and lean up against the metal siding of the open air garage as cars zoom by on Edgehill Avenue.

I weave my way through the bikes crowding the front door and take the two small steps to the cash register. The table is stacked with books about biking trails, boxes of Cliff bars and metal bicycle bells.

A giant chalkboard hangs precariously between the ceiling and the white-washed brick wall. Written in bold letters under a chalked illustration of the Green Fleet Hub shop is the phrase, “Great day for a ride.”

The guy sitting behind the counter sports a blue cotton T-shirt, dark cuffed jeans, and black thick-rimmed glasses. Just as I begin rummaging around for my notebook and tape recorder, he looks up at me.

“I need to go for a ride,” he said.

He springs out of his chair and pulls a white bike from the corner.

“This one’s yours. Do you feel comfortable on a bike?”

I nod slowly as he measures the seat for my height. He walks outside and brings back a folded-up green and yellow bike with handle bars too high and wheels too small. With a flick of the wrist, he whips the other wheel around to the front.

“These Brompton bikes came in from England last week,” he says, motioning to his newly-unfolded bike. “Riding’s not just about athletic bikes, you know?”

As soon as we start pedaling, he settles down into the seat and rocks back and forth with the sway of the bike, weaving effortlessly through traffic and waving to familiar faces on the sidewalk.

He’s like a coffee drinker who awakens with the first morning cup of caffeine.

On the bike he comes alive.

Austin Bauman, 29, is the owner of Green Fleet, a three-part business made up of a rush courier service, bike tours and bike rentals and repairs located in Edgehill Village.

“One way to think of us is as the three musketeers of bikes,” he said.

Bauman is no stranger to biking. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2006 with a music degree, he and his college roommate planned a four-month biking fundraiser across the U.S., partnering with the Atlanta-based Rally Foundation.

“We called it Rally Across America and we visited all these children’s hospitals that summer,” he said.

The pair rode to different cities and spent the day with children in cancer treatment, bringing them gifts and talking to their families, often about how the children loved riding bikes before they got sick.

“That got me hooked on what an impact bicycles can have on someone’s life,” Bauman said.

After biking across the country, Bauman spent his entire savings on a bicycle conference of avid cyclists who planned large-scale biking trips and got inspired to take his passion one step further.

“It’s the only thing I could afford to do,” he said, of his reasoning for starting Green Fleet’s courier service.

Green Fleet couriers offer on-demand delivery for anything from legal documents to medical records for places like Universal Music Group and Vanderbilt University.

With a 24-hour dispatch service and a 15-minute or less guarantee for pick-ups, many local business have chosen Green Fleet to run their deliveries.

One Nashville law firm, Hubbard Berry & Harris has been using Green Fleet’s services for two years.

“One of the attorneys in our office bikes and thought it would be a great idea for the environment and because of his love for biking,” said employee, Melissa Frazier.

During busy seasons, the law firm will use Green Fleet’s services everyday to transport court filings to and from the downtown courthouse.

In addition to downtown deliveries, Green Fleet couriers travel to areas in West End and Music Row.

“We’ve certainly biked some pretty big things,” Bauman said. “We had one guy deliver nine boxes on one bike. He had to rearrange some things but he got it there. It was a rush.”

For one Green Fleet courier, Sean Parker, being a bike messenger is a thrill.

“It’s very free, very independent,” he said.

Though Green Fleet uses hybrid cars for out-of-city deliveries, the impact of a courier service centered around bikes is clear.

“Our bike guy can do four deliveries in the time it takes your car guy to do one,” said Bauman. “We tell people, send a bicycle, replace a car.”

Green Fleet offers more than just deliveries. As of last year, Bauman has added bike tours to Green Fleet’s services.

Currently tours leave from the Green Fleet Hub in Edgehill Village and offer a three hour, 10 mile tour of Nashville including sites like the Ryman, the farmers market, Printers Alley and Music Row.

Green Fleet is even expanding its tours to the downtown area with a new community project its calling the Bike Bus.

Bauman purchased an operational school bus and with the help of a Kickstarter campaign and a local artist, organized a community painting project to decorate the bus with a colorful mural.

The newly-painted bus, which will reside under the Pedestrian Bridge beginning in May, will act as a new downtown location for Green Fleet’s bike tours.

“The whole idea behind it is that art is for everyone and the whole idea behind our bicycle tours is that bikes are for everyone,” said Bauman, on getting the community involved in the project.

For Bauman, this is the heart of Green Fleet’s services; getting the community back on bikes and potentially changing lives.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you wear; you can ride a bike.”