May 26, 2017

Tour downtown Louisville on a 16-passenger bike

View article online

The inspiration to start a tour business downtown featuring 16-passenger bikes came when Jennifer Benningfield was killing time waiting in her doctor’s office.

That’s where she saw a copy of Entrepreneur magazine and a story about the distributor who brought the bikes, manufactured in Amsterdam, to the U.S. She called her husband Scott.

“I told him we had to do this, and he said I was crazy,” said Jennifer, who was then a stay-at-home mom. The couple has two children.

Five years later, Jennifer and Scott are operating a successful local business, The Thirsty Pedaler, giving pedal-powered tours of downtown with stops at bars in the Central Business District. They’re adding a range of products that include distillery tours and specials, such as discounts on Tuesdays.

The husband-and-wife entrepreneurs recently solved one of their biggest challenges by signing on as a tenant at Fourth Street Live!, giving them great visibility and, importantly, a place to park their fleet of four bikes.

“Every season it’s been a struggle to find parking spots,” said Scott Benningfield. “We’ve gone down every alley, asked at every building. It can make or break you.”

At Fourth Street Live!, the Benningfields will have an office, signage, and access to underground parking. In addition, downtown walkers won’t be able to miss their bikes parked in the middle of the action.

“I think it’s a very good fit for both us, and Fourth Street Live! as we expand our businesses,” said Scott. “Fourth Street Live! has a lot to offer, and as a local business we’re excited to be a part of it.”

General manager Ed Hartless of Fourth Street Live! said that while it’s unique to feature a tour business offering trips away from the venue, he sees great advantages.

“They’re a husband-wife team that are true entrepreneurs doing business in downtown Louisville,” he said. “It gives our tenants and customers one more option. It’s a work-here, play-here mentality right in downtown.”

A typical tour last two hours, and includes stops at two bars, for $385, less than $25 per person. An outgoing tour guide directs customers, whose pedaling actually powers the bikes along the road. The Benningfields said they cater to birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and even to corporate clients. Tours travel the Central Business District and operate until 11:30 on weekends.

Pedalers can bring their own drinks on board. The Benningfields had to do some lobbying with the state legislature to pass a law that allows that. Locally, a Metro Council ordinance was recently passed to allow the operation of the bikes with drinking passengers aboard.

The Benningfields have grown the business by adding a new bike to their fleet once a year, and have one bike operating in Lexington. While they aren’t sure how many cities have operations like theirs, in 2012 when they started there were only six others in the U.S.

For information on tours, visit the web site at www.TheThirstyPedaler.com, or visit their new space at Fourth Street Live!