Bicycle lanes are without a doubt, the hot topic in cycling policy today. Advocates maintain that a separately paved network of cross-town routes is the only way to jump from average North American rates of bicycle-commuting (1%) to those in Northern Europe (15-25% or more). I’ve seen networks like this from Vancouver to rural stretches of highway between Amsterdam and The Hague. They work because they give cyclists a sense of security on otherwise very dangerous roads – something that’s important for people who want to get into it,

The problem is, at the best of times, governments aren’t big fans of the idea, and at the worst, they hate them outright, like many in Toronto’s upcoming mayoral race.

And so people have started taking matters into their own hands. groups like Toronto’s Urban Repair Squad have started painting their own bike lanes on routes which had long been promised by the city, but had yet to appear. This type of direct action is breaking out all over, and getting an amazing amount of good press. My favourite lately would have to be the anonymous stencil artist who painted up a bunch of Portland routes with symbols from Mario-Kart.

This isn’t a case of bicycles taking road space or funding from cars. Cars receive a kind of special treatment from our governments which could make the military jealous. Average highway construction costs run into tens of millions of dollars per kilometre, with even more in upkeep. The amount our government spends, from subsidizing the Tar Sands for fuel production to bailing out the failing auto industry, is staggering. A bicyclist pays for cars every single day, whether it’s through taxes, retail mark-ups for “free” parking lots, or just using the streets and breathing the air. And if our tax dollars won’t go to pay for bike lanes, they just might have to get some for free.