The 15-minute city is a Utopian concept which is recently trending as cities and communities look towards sustainable solutions in a post-COVID world.
The idea itself is quite simple and has been around since the early 1960s, intending to break down the old-style of segmented planning and create a more fluid and localised form of living. Rather than having specific areas for residential, industrial and commercial developments, this form of planning aims to allow any member of the community to reach all of these areas within 15 minutes. In particular, the 15-minute window is for cycling and walking rather than travelling via car or other forms of transport. The below image is taken from the C40 website and while it shows 20-minute neighbourhoods, it still encompasses the same ideology of the 15-minute city and the services that are required.
Paris is one of the leading major cities to adopt this form of development within their city. In particular, they are redeveloping some of their major road networks (specifically large squares which were often traffic nightmares) to become pedestrian-friendly and centralised around supporting walking and cycling throughout the city. This includes a pledge to make every road within Paris cycle-friendly by 2024. The redevelopment of these key areas allows for more trees to be planted, a healthier environment for people to travel through and providing the infrastructure to support a car-free city. Below is an image of a redeveloped square in Paris, which is centred around people first rather than vehicles.
Specifically, the health benefits that comes with the lifestyle of living in a 15-minute city are an increasingly attractive aspect of the system, particularly as we look towards the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major academic papers have concluded that people with Vitamin-D deficiencies and people that suffer from weight problems are more likely to be hospitalised from COVID-19. Therefore, changing how we travel and operate within cities or neighbourhoods can also have a huge benefit towards both our physical and mental wellbeing. Increasing our exposure to nature through better integration within our urban areas can also contribute heavily to our well-being.
Now, concepts such as these are often flawless and one of the major concerns is often around inclusivity and accessibility. When redesigning the city, it has to be inclusive of all classes, age groups and backgrounds to create and equal and fair system. In terms of accessibility, some people would not benefit from this system as they could not travel in this way. Therefore, careful consideration needs to be made in the way in which we develop alternative transportation methods such as MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) systems that provide a sustainable alternative and an alternative when the weather isn’t so great.
Overall, shifting away from the old planning style towards a more modern and lucid form of living could have benefits in a variety of ways, from promoting the natural environment in urban areas to improving physical and mental well-being. Decentralising core areas within cities, reimaging ‘space’ and moving away from a car-first approach can ultimately change how we live, and help to solve global issues through a localised planning approach. Particularly with Boris Johnson’s recent announcement to ban the sale of petrol/diesel cars, and improve tree-planting and cycle routes, this form of planning seems to perfectly encompass the national goals set out by the prime minister. As long as the system is implemented fairly, with careful considerations to be inclusive and accessible, it could change the way we live in urban areas.
- Would you adopt this different way of life if it means that you could spend more time outdoors, in areas that promote nature in an urban setting?
Here is a short video by C40 Cities which explains this concept in a visual way.