ROCKAWAY BEACH — It started as a fun way to travel around with friends, but now one local lifeguard hopes his pedicab business becomes the greenest way to get around the beach this summer.
Rockaway Pedicab owner Mike O'Toole started the service in 2010 and has added new and improved bikes to its fleet. This season, he plans to introduce daytime shifts for the first time to shuttle beachgoers from the A train and the peninsula's ferry to the beach.
O'Toole, 26, started pedaling with friends as a way to pick up extra cash in the summer when he wasn't working as a New York City lifeguard.
The pedicabs were introduced to the peninsula when two other lifeguards bought the rides in Brooklyn as a goof, O'Toole said, riding them down Flatbush Avenue into Rockaway.
It started off just as a fun way to get to local bars at night — with a tagline of "when you're shot, we're not" — until people started tipping them for the rides.
"We were riding our friends, people we grew up with," he said. "People for the most part are super generous, super nice."
They got serious the following summer, but dealt with setbacks, including equipment issues, flaky drivers and Hurricane Sandy.
The bikes weren't around at all last summer because of an inspection delay, which is required for all pedicab licenses and medallion numbers, he said.
Now O'Toole, an entrepreneur and lifelong Rockaway resident who recently graduated from Brooklyn College, is looking to boost his bike business and hire more workers as the peninsula's high season kicks up.
"We're the connection between small businesses," he said, rattling off a list of restaurants and bars — Connolly's, Thai Rock, The Fisherman's Dog, Uma's and Sayra's Wine Bar — that are frequent stops.
He bought state-of-the-art pedicabs after saving money this winter by selling old cars and delivering pizza.
The new bikes are a big improvement, O'Toole said, "like going from an old beater to a brand new Honda Accord."
He plans to add surfboard and cooler racks as well as spaces for local businesses to advertise.
Expanded service for the pedicab means O'Toole is looking to hire more pedalers. The only requirement is a valid driver's license and an application for a pedicab driver's license.
Pedalers work off gratuity and can expect to make a salary comparable to that of a waiter or bartender if they hustle, he said.
"It's one of the most fun jobs you'll ever have," he said. "You can expand your social circle, and get in shape."