MIKE FLANIGAN, a self-described hippie redneck from Texas, makes bikes. Not Harleys, but good old-fashioned bicycles — the type so ubiquitous in Europe and so rarely found in the US. Since 2001, Flanigan’s owned the Holliston-based Alternative Needs Transportation, also known as ANT. “Bikes in America were accessories, toys,” he says. “They’d become geared toward a child’s market.”
Not any more. With more people realizing the importance of reducing gas consumption — not to mention body fat — bikes are back in vogue. Flanigan thinks Boston’s a great biking city: flat roads, plenty of dedicated bike lanes, and an almost-constant gridlock problem, making breezing past idling rush-hour traffic ever so gratifying. During May, which is Bike-to-Work month, the city sponsored a timed commuting contest. The humble bicycle almost always left cars and subways in the dust.
Flanigan’s bikes aren’t your little sister’s candy-pink Huffy, mind you. His frames are coveted among the cycling faithful. The custom-designed cycles are built with commuters in mind, and range in price from $2000 to $6000 — not cheap, but then again, several paychecks less than your average gas-guzzling SUV. The bikes are street legal, meaning they have lights, a bell, a kickstand, fenders, and a chain guard. A storage rack is another handy feature (and used to great effect by Redbones’s delivery drivers, who employ ANT bikes to tote meat). Plus, there’s a certain pride of craftsmanship — each bike is made by Flanigan himself.
He hopes that his niche bikes will also benefit from the political climate. “This war is about oil, and people know that, and they can be true patriots, and do their part, by biking — the way our grandparents rode their bikes to the factories,” he says. Fair, but grandpa also didn’t have to battle hostile minivans on Route 9. “Most novices are afraid they’re going to get run over,” Flanigan acknowledges. To that end, he supports MassBike, an organization geared toward promoting safer road conditions. He’s also using his considerable cycle-circle influence to encourage larger companies to focus on the commuter-biking market.
In the immortal words of H.G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”