SoBi Long Beach's Danny Toy & Laura Gorski on bicycles, their expansion & more
Last year, No Place Like Long Island had the pleasure of talking to Social Bicycles' Daniel Trevino about Long Beach's then-new bike share program, SoBi Long Beach. After a few months away, the SoBi Long Beach bicycles returned to the boardwalk last week, now also positioned in racks all around town. The company has expanded substantially since our October 2016 feature, which General Manager Danny Toy and Operations Manager Laura Gorski expanded upon during a meeting at Bridgeworks.
More info on SoBi Long Beach can be found at www.sobilongbeach.com, while the app referenced by Laura can be downloaded for free to your smartphone or tablet.
Are there any differences in the SoBi Long Beach program from last year?
Laura Gorski: This year we're going to have a monthly membership. We'll also have pay-as-you-go, which is $8 an hour, which is pro-rated, about 15 cents a minute. We'll also have the season membership, which is $50, and that started on Monday and it's through December 1st. It's a really great value and it includes one hour of riding time a day. We're also this year adding a monthly membership, so it's going to be $15 a month and it's for 30 days. So if you sign up on the 5th, it's until the next month, and it also includes one hour of free riding time a day. Anything after that is the pay-as-you-go rate.
Is it the same bikes? Are there any new ones in the fleet?
LG: We have the same bikes this year. We've had some touch-ups. We're getting some new tires this month, just to keep making improvements. We're also getting new hub locations, one on the East End and one on the West End to make it more commuter-friendly.
What else is going on for the company? Is there a possibility of growth beyond Long Beach to other parts of Long Island?
Danny Toy: We're a global company. We just launched a 1,200 bike system in Krakow, Poland. We're launching in, a soft launch, in Sacramento in the next couple of weeks. We're launching in New Orleans in the fall. In fact, we loaned 40 of our bikes from Long Beach for a test run in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. So if you're riding a bike on the boardwalk in Long Beach, know that some of those bikes have some interesting stories to tell. (laughs) Locally, we're looking at the triangle of Lido Beach, Atlantic Beach, Island Park. There's been some requests to connect those areas by bicycle, so we're looking at those areas first. Then we'll be looking east, along the South Shore, along the canal towns and some of the resort towns in the Hamptons, even into Sag Harbor, the North Fork and Huntington, also west into the Rockaways and the city. It's not all happening this summer, but you'll see some expansion close to Long Beach...That's a big change from last year. Laura and I have been hired as dedicated, year-round staff for Long Beach and business development on Long Island, whereas the company based in Brooklyn had a staff here during the summer season.
Aside from the company, do you have a favorite restaurant in Long Beach?
LG: The Inn is my favorite. Burger Night Wednesdays, I'll be there tonight.
DT: I've been a big Minnesota's fan for a long time, but I hate to single anyone out. It's big and it's outdoors and we're a family of five -- it usually works.
Is there something that you wish more people knew about your bike share program?
LG: When I first heard about the bikes, I thought, "That's cool," and then I learned about the features the app has. I'm very into fitness, as most people are right now. The app will tell you how many miles you went, how many calories you burned, how much carbon dioxide you saved, and how much money you saved on gas. So that's a really cool feature if you get the season pass, to be like, "Wow, I burned 2,000 calories riding a bike." That just makes you feel better and then you have a cheeseburger on Wednesday. (laughs)
DT: For me, not to make it too personal, but I spent a lot of years in the traffic/information business...We've had a lot of meetings with city planners and Department Of Transportation people on how best to understand traffic problems, how to try to improve them, and how to best communicate them to consumers. What I've found through all of those years of running sales and operations is that nobody really did a great job in focusing on ways to improve lifestyles and navigation and transportation. The United States is a little bit behind the rest of the world in this way. So what's awesome about bike share is that it's a really great environment, it fits the sustainable city models...Because we have GPS on our bikes, it creates heatmaps, so we know trends, where people are traveling the most, so we know where to put bike racks and where to create safe zones for people to ride. From a business standpoint, those are things that are important to me, but the bottom line is riding a bike is fun...It's healthy,