An East Nashville neighborhood is at odds over bike lanes. A group of residents and local bike commuters have been pushing to install the lanes in Cleveland Park. But another group of vocal longtime residents strongly opposes the project. And the issue signifies a much deeper rift in the community.
The one-mile stretch of Cleveland St. between Ellington Parkway and Dickerson Pike is a thoroughfare of this East Nashville neighborhood.
“It’s kind of the critical connection between all of Mcferrin Park, Cleveland Park neighborhoods, Dickerson Pike and then over to Gallatin,” says Nora Kern, the executive director of Walk Bike Nashville who also lives nearby. She, and others, are fighting to add bike lanes to this strip of road, especially since the city is about to repave it. For Kern, it’s a way to make the street safer for everyone.
But for neighbors like Sam McCullough, it’s anything but safe.
“It all started one morning, on a Monday morning,” McCullough says. Last year, the city decided to add bike lanes near the same spot. But to do it they took out the 4-way-stop sign without any notice. The same one McCullough had helped get put in years earlier.
“People were near missing. Some weren’t missing and they were wrecking. It was disaster,” McCullough says. He and other neighbors fought to get the stop sign put back. And it was.
When this new plan emerged, many residents already had a bad taste in their mouths about bike lanes. And so they dug in their heels. And their councilman, Scott Davis, agreed, blocking the measure.
But bike lanes were just a small piece of a much bigger issue. There were all the other changes in neighborhood: the rising rents, the new tall skinny homes popping up, the harassing calls from real estate developers.
McCullough’s family has lived in this neighborhood for four generations, as have many others. And they’ve stuck it out through ups and downs. Like when it got seedy and dangerous — when prostitutes walked the streets, bullets flew through windows, and drug addicts swiped residents’ patio sets just to get a fix.
“We have lived through so much over here that at some point you just have to push back and just say, ‘enough is enough,'” McCullough says. “We are here and we are going to be heard. Because if it hadn’t have been for the work that we did, you would not see this neighborhood looking like it does today.”
The biker, Nora Kern, understands the push back, but says such resistance could end up hurting the neighborhood and putting everyone in a compromised situation.
“[It means] you can’t change anything. You can’t make anything better. You can’t invest in the neighborhood because any investment could draw people who have more money,” Kern says.
For now the bike lane project is at a standstill. And for McCullough and his neighbors, they’ll still take every chance to hold tight to the neighborhood they fought so hard to build.