Dana Hansen loves the picturesque, mile-and-a-half walk from Field 5 at Robert Moses State Park, past the Fire Island Lighthouse, along the ocean and into the automobile-free, barrier beach community of Kismet. But there’s a downside: The trip back to her car.
“The walk back is always really hard. The afternoon heat is unbearable. You’re low on energy,” says Hansen, 56, an event planner from Lindenhurst. People must either walk along the beach or on what’s called the Burma Road, a primarily sandy stretch along the barrier island’s spine.
To the rescue: Justin Galbraith, owner of the new Fire Island Pedicab, the latest form of Fire Island transportation. Using a bicycle pedicab with power assist, he pedals people back and forth from Field 5 to visit the Lighthouse for $5 per person each way or beyond to just short of the border of Kismet for $10. Kids younger than 12 are $3 to the Lighthouse and $6 to Kismet.
“This is the absolute answer,” Hansen says after a recent Friday afternoon ride. “This is an absolute win-win.”
Galbraith, 50, of Brightwaters, is a longtime visitor to Fire Island; since he was a teen he's walked from Robert Moses to the Lighthouse or Kismet to avoid having to plan for the cost of parking a car in Bay Shore and taking the half-hour ferry ride across the Great South Bay. “By the time I was 18 or 19 I started thinking there’s got to be a better way of getting in and out of here,” he says. But it took his own teenage daughter complaining about the long walk to finally make Galbraith into a “beach-apreneur,” he says.
Galbraith approached the Fire Island National Seashore and was granted approval. “As it is the first of its kind, the rickshaw service is a pilot program, and we will continue to monitor and evaluate as time progresses,” says Jason Pristupa, chief of administration for the Fire Island National Seashore.
Galbraith employs one other driver and offers rides from 9 a.m. to dusk every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, through Oct. 15. He’s set up at a table with a red umbrella at Field 5, and riders can either just show up or can make a reservation by calling or texting 516-402-4175 or visiting fireislandpedicab.com. Riders can pay by cash, Venmo, Zelle or credit card.
“I really like the idea. There’s no cars allowed back and forth so it’s great for the general public to have the pedicabs,” says Nick Giampietro, a staff member at the Fire Island Lighthouse, which displays Galbraith’s cards. "He certainly helps our business."
The pedicab can seat three adults or could accommodate a family with children, and can travel up to 12 miles per hour, Galbraith says. “It feels like you’re on a ride at Adventureland a little bit,” Galbraith says. A steel shelf with bungee cords allows him to also transport riders’ beach chairs and umbrellas. The .7-mile ride to the lighthouse takes about three to five minutes, and the ride to the Old Kismet Firehouse on the Burma Road fewer than 10, he says. Riders to Kismet then have a far shorter walk than they otherwise would to reach the commercial area where restaurants serve lunch and dinner.
Cathleen Topping, 69, a retired teacher from Northport, stopped at the Pedicab table to check out the service one recent Friday. She says the ride would be great for her because she needs a hip replacement and has a torn meniscus. “I’d like to go to Kismet. The restaurants are good,” she says. “I like the whole notion.”