Map Monday – The Spending Habits of a “Modal Mom”

I had the pleasure of meeting Lana Stewart at this year’s innovative “Winter Cycling Congress” in Minneapolis. She’s a mother, blogger, and bicyclist from Ottawa, Ontario, and gave a good talk on winter biking with kids in Canada.

Anyway, she recently put up a great post mapping out some of her shopping habits in Ottawa, and how counterintuitive they appear to people who think that bicycling is only for commuting and recreation.

Here’s the map, which shows exactly how much money she spent in Ottawa during the month of April, shopping or eating out:

commuting myth math map

One month of spending by bicycle.

(Admittedly, these are Canadian dollars, so they’re basically worthless.)*

It turns out the vast majority of Stewart’s spending was within a short distance of her house. Even within 2 km., which is metric so is really like about 100 feet or something. (Actually 1.25 miles.)

That should come as no surprise for anyone who thinks about basic physics. The surprising thing, though, was that so many of Stewart’s trips were not commuting to work, but for spending money at local businesses in her neighborhood.

biking in april chartThis is how Stewart describes her methodology:

I took meticulous notes about where I traveled using my bike in April and how much I spent.  And my results show that we may want to reconsider the importance of “Bike to Work” months, when the majority of my trips were not to my workplace.

77% of my biking destinations were not my workplace.


Don’t judge me.  I like eating out.  And it’s a luxury when you don’t have car payments or bus passes to buy.

Let’s zoom in to one of my shopping hotspots!  Oooh boy, imagine how many more people would feel like shopping here with a bike lane instead of sharrows?  $$$$  : )  $$$$

Check out the rest of the post for a few more details.

Given the dominant narrative that people with families cannot get around without a car, I thought this was an interesting bit of data. Thanks Lana!

* j/k I’m half-Canadian so I can joke about it, eh?

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.