The 15-Minute City

  • By: Owen McComasky
  • Date: October 8, 2020
  • Time to read: 4 min.

What Is It and How Is This Relevant to ZeroCarbon2025?


What is the 15-Minute City?

If you’ve heard of the 15-minute city, you’re probably keeping up to date with the strategies cities are using to implement their climate action plans.


The 15-minute city is about meeting the needs of its people in an efficient and integrated manner. By that, we mean each citizen would be able to access shops, their job, theatres, restaurants, medical facilities and all necessary amenities within a 15-minute walk or bicycle trip.


Remember our articles on reducing your carbon footprint and Earth Overshoot Day? Using one factor mentioned above as an example, let’s explore how the 15-minute city reduces your carbon footprint, which contributes to your impact on the planet.


The average petrol-fuelled car in the UK produces roughly 180g of CO2/km travelled. How does your score change if you remove all those car trips to the office? 


Post-COVID Cities

There’s a chance that you are now working from home, ‘thanks’ to COVID-19. Does that mean you are now driving less? Or, as a means of social distancing, are you driving more than before and avoiding public transport?


Speaking of COVID, the worldwide lockdowns that were enforced in 2020 created an opportunity for cities to implement green mobility plans, with Paris, Milan, and Barcelona upgrading their respective bike lanes. Mayors from around the world – including Melbourne, Ottawa, New York and London – are pushing for drastic change. Could the 15-minute city boost post-pandemic recovery?


By bringing everything closer together, the opportunity to help local businesses recover, reduce traffic emissions and “bring activities to the neighbourhoods, not people to the activities, the 15-minute city could play a big part in the economic recovery to a massive recession we are all being told to anticipate.


Does It Sound Too Good to be True?

Ok, we’ve discussed how amazing this could be for you and your entire community. So, what are the potential drawbacks to the 15-minute city?


If a large city were to focus on sections at a time, increasing the long-term value of certain neighbourhoods, will it increase gentrification in low-income districts?


Will said low-income communities – those who would benefit most from the 15-minute city – become victims of it instead?


Surely employers could hire more discriminately as a result of the 15-minute radius of a newly gentrified community. After all, wouldn’t they just be following the rules as they select middle-class Jack from the reinvigorated block, as opposed to recently-evicted Malika (who, unfortunately, now lives an unacceptable 25-minute bike ride from the office/cafe/shop/medical centre)?


Core Principles of the 15-Minute City

Well, in an ideal world, all cities will follow the four “core principles of a 15-minute city” which would ensure that all members of the community are included. Here they are below:


  • Residents of every neighbourhood have easy access to goods and services, particularly groceries, fresh food and healthcare

  • Every neighbourhood has a variety of housing types, of different sizes and levels of affordability, to accommodate many types of households and enable more people to live closer to where they work

  • Residents of every neighbourhood are able to breathe clean air, free of harmful air pollutants, there are green spaces for everyone to enjoy

  • More people can work close to home or remotely, thanks to the presence of smaller-scale offices, retail and hospitality, and co-working spaces


When mayors and local administration follow these principles, they should make decisions based on supporting the community, rather than those based on greed and profit. 15-minute cities are designed to be sustainable and self-sustaining; packed with the resources the people need for healthy lifestyles and stronger community bonds.


Is it feasible? Let’s find out over the next few years, as theory is put into practice by mayors across the globe.


Quick recap: Many major cities are aiming to transform into 15-Minute Cities in an attempt to combat climate change and provide their citizens with full access to a lifestyle that meets their day-to-day needs. There would, ideally, be no need for a car on a daily basis. Society’s dependence on fossil fuels would be diminished in several sectors as a result…


..and that is why we find the 15-Minute City quite relevant.


Bonus Facts

Did you know…C40 are an organisation committed to helping cities combat climate change? Our previous article on Climate Action Plans (mentioned above) showcases some of their work they do to provide cities around the world with the tools they need to “collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change”.


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