We Need 15-Minute Cities More Than Ever

We Need 15-Minute Cities More Than Ever
Photo by Joshua Newton / Unsplash

Have you ever heard of a 15-minute city? It's a very simple concept, but I rarely ever see people talking about it.

Given the sweet, sweet benefits that we could reap from them, 15-minute cities deserve a lot more attention than they're currently getting. I know; urban planning concepts are boring and dry, and nobody wants to study them on a Wednesday morning.

Stay with me, I promise it's more interesting than it sounds.

One of the major problems with cities these days is distance. Think about it; if you live outside of the downtown area, how much time do you spend driving your car from one errand to the next?

If you're like me and you live out in the suburbs, it may take you as long as 20 to 30 minutes to get to work in the morning. The city buses don't make it out to where I live, so apart from carpooling or getting an expensive taxi twice a day, owning a car is practically essential if you're going to work outside the home.

We already know how cars contribute to pollution and how costly they are to maintain. But in terms of our individual health, it goes even further.

For one thing, you're spending a huge chunk of time every single day stuck inside a vehicle. You're sitting down, you're stuck in traffic, you're worried about other drivers on the road who may not be paying attention. If you have a long commute, you arrive to work already tired, don't you?

If you've got kids, you've got an even longer commute to get them to and from school and daycare, with all of that added stress.

Don't even get me started on parking. Finding a space, paying for time, getting dinged and catching fines if you accidentally stay longer than you thought you would. Pain in the ass, isn't it?

In a 15-minute city, you don't have to worry about any of that. You don't have a commute in the morning, you don't need to cram your kids in the car, and you don't need to spend 30 minutes driving just to do your daily errands.

Everything you need is within a 15-minute walk from your house. In fact, many 15-minute city concepts eliminate the need for a car altogether, unless you want one for long distance travel of course.

There will always be jobs that exist well outside the city limits, such as industrial work and trucking. But 15-minute cities place an emphasis on remote work, and keeping retail services close to residential areas helps cut down on travel time overall.

Rather, 15-minute cities are designed for accessibility. Public transportation is highlighted for longer trips to other residential areas, but otherwise, all of your daily needs can be reached just a few doors away from your home.

For people who require wheelchairs or mobility aids, simple infrastructure can make those trips easier. Ramps and dedicated pathways could go a long way, and introducing jobs in the form of local delivery services could bridge some of the gap as well.

Imagine your teenager walking to school in the morning, and then spending the early afternoon making extra cash by delivering groceries and medicine to your elderly neighbors.

The modern day version of a paper route, and without the need for a vehicle.

The whole idea behind a 15-minute city is to emphasize a mindset based on living local and engaging with your community. On top of getting people into a less sedentary way of life, it also encourages people to interact more, and to become more aware of what's going on in their neighborhood.

We live in such a divided world these days, often entirely cut off from one another for various reasons. Hell, I can recognize a few of my neighbors on sight, but I couldn't tell you most of their names.

I know their dogs better than I know them, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who has that problem.

Imagine living in a city where groceries, the hospital, the pharmacy, your job, and the local shopping centers and restaurants were all within walking distance. Imagine going shopping with a cart you own, rather than using a busted up storebought cart to carry things to your car.

Imagine no more road rage, no more racing for the one empty spot in the grocery store parking lot.

How much healthier and more active would you be? Wouldn't you leave your home more often? Wouldn't you talk to more people, make more friends, and feel more connected? Wouldn't you care more about the news if you felt like you were a part of the community instead of just living in it?

If you didn't need a car just to get around, would you even buy one? Would you spend the money to keep it fueled up and in working condition if you didn't absolutely need one?

Imagine how much more freedom you'd feel if going to your favorite coffee shop was a short walk instead of a drive. I know I would make the trip more often! I'll bet small business owners would leap at the chance for more walk-in traffic, too.

All in all, 15-minute cities carry numerous benefits for the people that live in them.

Next week, I'll talk a little bit about how some cities around the world are working to implement the 15-minute model into urban developments in the future.

Solidarity wins.