In the realm of urban planning and design, a groundbreaking concept has emerged, revolutionizing the way we envision cities and redefine our relationship with urban spaces. The 15-minute city is gaining traction worldwide: One example is Paris. Mayor Anne Hidalgo introduced the 15-minute city concept in her 2020 re-election campaign and began implementing it during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we want to explore the potential of the 15-minute city.
What is a 15-minute city?
The 15-minute city concept aims to create vibrant, self-sufficient communities where residents can access all their daily needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. The concept challenges the traditional city model, where long commutes, traffic congestion, and fragmented neighbourhoods are common drawbacks. By reorganizing urban spaces to ensure accessibility to essential amenities, such as schools, workplaces, grocery stores, parks, and healthcare facilities, within a short distance, the concept encourages a more balanced and efficient lifestyle. In summary: The idea of the 15-minute city is to create more liveable and sustainable neighbourhoods by reducing the need for car travel and promoting walkability and accessibility.
The role of sustainable mobility
At the heart of the 15-Minute City lies the promotion of sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, cycling, and efficient public transit systems. Reducing reliance on cars not only mitigates traffic congestion and its environmental impact but also enhances public health by encouraging physical activity. Well-connected pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, coupled with reliable and accessible public transportation, fosters cleaner and greener urban environments, while also contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Vibrant and Inclusive Communities
By reimagining urban areas as self-sufficient hubs, the 15-Minute City fosters vibrant and inclusive communities. Neighbourhoods become more walkable, allowing residents to engage in spontaneous interactions, strengthen social connections, and build a sense of belonging. Shared public spaces, community gardens, and local markets contribute to the creation of lively gathering spots, encouraging civic engagement and cultural diversity.
Embracing the 15-Minute City has the potential to invigorate local economies. By encouraging the establishment of diverse businesses, both big and small, within these self-sufficient communities, residents have convenient access to a range of goods and services. This, in turn, supports local entrepreneurship, job creation, and a more equitable distribution of economic opportunities, contributing to overall urban resilience.
What cities are embracing the 15-minute concept?
Besides Paris, there are several other cities worldwide working towards creating self-sufficient neighborhoods. Barcelona, Spain: Barcelona has adopted a similar concept called “Superblocks” to create mini neighborhoods where cars are restricted, and pedestrians and cyclists have priority. The US-city of Portland is working towards a 20-minute neighborhood concept. The city has invested in mixed-use development, improved public transportation, and cycling infrastructure. Melbourne in Australia is also striving to become a 20-minute city with access to schools, shops, parks, healthcare facilities, and public transport within a short walk or bike ride.
A Holistic Approach to Urban Planning
Implementing the 15-Minute City necessitates a holistic approach to urban planning. Collaboration between urban and traffic planners, policymakers, and community stakeholders becomes paramount. Engaging residents in the decision-making process ensures that their needs and aspirations are met, leading to inclusive urban spaces that cater to a diverse range of interests, age groups, and abilities.
Digital tools and innovative technologies are indispensable here to obtain a more comprehensive view. One good example are accessibility analysis in mobility. Accessibility scores show at a glance how easily places of employment and education, parks, and other destinations can be reached in a city by all means of transport – walking, public transit, private vehicles, or cycling.
Data analytics, modeling, and simulation are essential in decision-making. They empower planners to identify and understand the mobility needs of people, across all modes, allowing them to shape a more inclusive and sustainable mobility ecosystem. Attractive visualizations, dashboards and animations are extremely important in generating enthusiasm for new mobility projects.
As urbanization continues to shape our world, it is imperative that we explore innovative ideas like the 15-minute city. Digital tools form the basis for leveraging potential and implementing the best ideas.