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?

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

  1. Wanderer

    Her 77% of trips being non-commute is pretty consistent with the estimates for the non-commute share of trips overall.

    1. Serafina ScheelSerafina

      I quibble a bit with counting childcare as recreation rather than commute, but it’s an interesting exercise.

      I’m in the process of breaking out my April bike trips like this, and recording May going forward. For six months, bikes are my family’s main transportation mode here in Münster, and I’d like to see how it compares in Minneapolis once we are back in August.

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    There were so. many. bikes. at the local SuperValu yesterday. It was great to see.

    Also, the bike racks I use near the office were jam-packed today. Hey, guys, you can ride October to April too!

  3. Rosa

    I hope Target HQ recognizes the dollar value of the Greenway to the Lake Street store. Which reminds me I need to call Wells Fargo AGAIN about the lack of a bike rack by their Hi Lake branch.

      1. Monte Castleman

        I was chatting with the customs agent in Houlton, and he was like “So how did you like your trip? Pretty expensive there, wasn’t it?”

        One way on the Portland-Yarmouth ferry with two people, our car, and a private inside cabin (it was an overnight trip so we wanted real beds) even in shoulder season was almost as much as airfare to Boston too.

        1. Tim

          Depending on how long ago that was, it could be substantially cheaper now, what with the CAD being weak against the USD.

  4. Emily Metcalfe

    With a household of 6 people, I do a lot of shopping. With 2 wire baskets attached to my back rack and 2 reusable bags in my backpack, I am ready to pick up food at all times. I don’t commute to a job, so I appreciate people who look beyond the commute for bike trips.

  5. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Great chart. Goes right along with all of the studies showing that sales increase on streets with protected bikeways.

    And, logic would seem to say that less spending on a car leaves more money available for other purchases or eating out more often. On the flip side, people who have to drive because of lack of safe places to walk or ride bicycles will spend more money on fuel, tires, repairs, or even owning a car instead of spending in local shops and cafés.

  6. Dana DeMasterDanaD

    I added up my April rides and spending. I biked 198 miles, had 37 rides, and spent $673 on those trips (two grocery runs of nearly $200 each were the big spending rides). My average ride was 5.4 miles. I spent money on 35% of my rides for $3.39 per mile ridden. Nearly 75% of rides included children for at least some portion of the ride and 59% of rides were commuting – meaning that either the start or destination was work, even if I stopped other places along the way like my son’s school or the grocery store.

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