Two-Wheel Tourism

Borrowable bikes are an increasingly popular hotel offering for meetings attendees.

When meeting attendees have some free time during a conference or event, they might consider taking a bike ride through the destination. That’s not to say travelers need to try packing a bicycle in their suitcases. Thanks to the creativity and green practices of a number of properties, as well as new citywide bikeshare programs, groups have a growing number of ways to experience their destination on two wheels.

One of the more prominent bike-friendly hotel brands is Kimpton Hotels, which has launched its PUBLIC bike program at all 59 of its hotels, from Washington State to Washington, D.C. Through a partnership with San Francisco-based bike makers PUBLIC, Kimpton has been able to make a handful of bikes available to visitors. They are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis, include a helmet, and can be used for as long as the borrower likes.

“This can be a great thing for groups who come in for meetings,” says Barry Pollard, senior vice president of hotel operations for Kimpton. “It’s a good way to start off a day of meetings, with an invigorating exercise or some sightseeing.”

The bike programs can be especially popular in bike-friendly cities like Seattle. With three Kimpton properties in the city’s downtown, and a fourth on the way (an adaptive reuse of the 1910 Calhoun Hotel, expected to open at the end of 2014), visitors can squeeze in side trips to Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit — distances that might be tough to take on foot.

The 106-room Tides Inn in Irvington, VA, set on the Chesapeake Bay, is a good fit for gatherings away from the bustle of the city, with 14 meeting spaces ranging from 280 to 12,150 square feet. It also offers a line of orange and lime-green bicycles (complete with baskets) for checking out the downtown farmers market and art galleries.

Groups also often take part in the four-hour “Wheels & Wine” tour that the hotel offers — wicker picnic basket lunch included.

“Two wheels and a wine glass are all you need to experience the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail,” says Babs Harrison, director of communications for the Tides Inn. “In Irvington, there’s no need to worry about locking up your bike and, besides, everyone knows those brightly colored bikes belong to the resort.”

Cities themselves have expanded their offerings for those who prefer to pedal instead of walk. This past summer, New York City launched its Citi Bike program, which put thousands of bikes at 330 stations throughout the city. Long Beach, CA premiered its bike-sharing program at the start of 2013. Similar programs are now in the works for San Francisco and Chicago, and that’s not to mention the inexpensive bike-borrowing already available at cities from Melbourne to Minneapolis and Montreal.

“Generally speaking, cities are really creating a greater opportunity for you to get on your bike and ride,” says Kimpton’s Pollard.

But planners considering these should keep in mind that few citywide programs include helmets, so the safest bet remains working with a bike-friendly hotel.