15-minute cities are now a reality
Could you imagine having everything you need within a 15-minute walk? This is the aim of the so-called “15-minute cities”, a new concept of urban planning with reduced journeys and decentralised services.
The 15-minute city is a project promoted by the French-Colombian professor and scientist Carlos Moreno, an expert in urban planning, that is committed to a model of intelligent cities, designed for their inhabitants. An idea that is moving increasingly away from utopia and just getting started in some cities around the world.
It is a clear one: urban planning is now subordinated to asphalt, due to a model where cars are the protagonists. The rest of the city has adapted to it for decades. But, when the energy transition is a reality and all forms of transport opt for carbon-free energy sources, the way we imagine urban planning must also change. Hence, Carlos Moreno’s initiative, which implies changing our pace of life, in a city created not only to be useful but above all to be enjoyed.
The city that saves you time
Time is one of the main problems in cities. Immediacy, the obligation of having everything at the moment, the stress of overcrowded journeys, and the time we invest in each journey. Travelling must be reduced, and this is only going to be achieved if people can satisfy all their needs within a radius of approximately 15 minutes, whether on foot or by bicycle. We are talking about housing, working, meeting basic needs, medical care (health and pharmacies), learning and enjoyment. It is therefore essential to provide each area of the city with a heterogeneous, efficient and local business and cultural fabric. The optimization of supply and the use of technology will be key to obtaining collaborative and shared business models.
In this model, the bicycle is the main means of transport, as in the Nordic countries, because it is much more sustainable for the environment and substantially cheaper for the user. Commitment to green cities also brings physical and mental health benefits, by making inhabitants feel at ease as part of the community and by reducing stress, thanks to a slower and more conscious pace of life.
The school, epicentre of the community
Space is the other key element that is very slowly being reconquered in the form of green areas, bicycle lanes or pedestrian streets. Reducing travelling would mean less space for vehicles and, therefore, more space for people. Educational centres are also gaining prominence; they are opening up to the community and becoming more of a space for socialising outside of school hours since their facilities are offered for communal use.
The other challenge of the new cities is inclusion and social engagement. This model goes beyond urban planning and seeks to create cities where everyone has a place, without discrimination. It involves the creation of an economic model focused on real and current needs, which should reduce inequalities, both in terms of access to housing and to well maintained green areas.
From utopia to reality
In recent years, several cities around the world have been interested in or have even started to apply this model. Portland, in the United States, was one of the first ones to implement this idea in 2000. Since then, it has been working towards a single goal: that by 2030, 90% of the population be able to travel on foot or by bicycle to access basic services. In 2018, Melbourne opted for this policy, which is currently being implemented in three areas of the city. Paris, Milan and several Swedish cities are also joining the growing list of municipalities redesigning urbanism to put sustainability and citizenship at the centre of it.
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