Last week I talked a little bit about the 15-minute city idea.
As a refresher, this is an urban planning concept that creates condensed cities where everything you need for daily life is situated within the distance of a 15 minute walk from your home.
While this concept hasn't been fully implemented anywhere yet, there are plenty of cities around the world that are adapting variations of the idea into their designs for new districts and revamped public spaces.
Annie Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, used the 15-minute city concept as the basis for her re-election campaign in 2020. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the city took advantage of reduced traffic to begin working on some of the public spaces that were most in need of revamp.
The changes made were comparatively minor, but allowed for sections of the city to extend options for public transportation and to open new bicycle lanes and walking paths.
Other ideas were the conversion of school recess areas for dual-purpose. During school hours, the playgrounds are locked off for the use of the school children. After hours, they are unlocked for the neighborhood to use as a public park, so the local families have space to play outdoors without the need of traveling several blocks for a devoted space.
Small alterations like this can achieve two things. One, it helps reduce traffic on the street and helps cut down on emissions from vehicle use. And two, it encourages people to go outside in their neighborhoods.
An excellent example of how well these simple changes can work is in Utrecht, a major city in the Netherlands. Virtually every resident of Utrecht can reach every necessity within a 10-minute bike ride of their homes, thanks to the city's design.
The necessities included on that list run the gamut from food and medical care, all the way to education and sports. The plan is to have not one, but five seperate 'cores' built into the city by 2040, accomodating an increasing population and ensuring that traffic can be spread out across the city, rather than concentrated into one zone.
Bet money that would reduce a lot of the traffic jams and congestion that most major cities have to deal with. If you had 5 options at varying distances to choose from on your shopping spree, rather than 1 downtown area with everything packed into a small collection of streets, Christmas shopping would be much less of a headache.
And no need to run people over just to find a freakin' parking space! It's all within a close enough distance that owning a care simply isn't necessary to live there! Imagine having that luxury here. I live out in the suburbs around my home city, and making a run into town is a whole ordeal.
With only one car, the only person who goes into the city is the one person who can't work from home. That places a lot of the burden of shopping and picking up necessities on the shoulders of that one individual.
If it were possible to pop down to the shop on a whim, without having to call a cab, that would no longer be the case.
The 15-minute city model is becoming increasingly popular, and with the issues of climate change and the need for a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, the concept provides a number of great advantages.
It can emphasize public transportation, which is easier to make green. It can reduce vehicle traffic on the street, and make collisions less likely. It has implications for our health, increasing the time we spend up and about and walking outside.
With that time spent outdoors, I wouldn't be surprised if efforts to improve the infrastructure and aesthetics of our cities would gain more popular support, too. With more people using the sidewalks downdown, I bet my city would finally fix the goddamn paving stones that sit unevenly. I trip on those damn things all the time.
Maybe we would have been able to keep the greenery and foliage of our downtown park instead of watching it be paved over for construction if more people spent time there.
Small businesses would get more foot traffic, there would be less need for paid parking, fewer parking garages and more open spaces. Wouldn't that be a sight?
I'm looking forward to seeing more little changes like this turn up. I'm excited to see more cities adopt these principles into their future designs, and to find out how well they actually work.
I'll bet the end result is going to be really cool!