The 15-minute city, also known as the 20-minute neighbourhood, is the “utopian vision of local living” in which people can access most of their daily needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their home.
The term 15-minute city was coined by Paris-based urbanist and Sorbonne Professor, Carlos Moreno, and has gained in popularity throughout 2023 and is based on the principle that communities should be designed around the needs of people.
Whilst Moreno introduced the idea in 2016, it wasn’t popularised until 2020, when Paris Mayoress Anne Hidalgo adopted it, gaining traction in the UK during the pandemic.
An urban design / planning concept which highlights the importance of ease of access to local shops, healthcare and green spaces, it has supporters, sceptics and challenges.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has championed the idea and has called for the creation of 15-minute neighbourhoods as a way of promoting more sustainable, healthier, and happier communities, arguing that they help to reduce car dependency, promote active travel, and support local businesses.
Growing public support
The public seems to be in agreement with the RTPI, with research from YouGov suggesting that the majority of people (62%) would support their local authority in making their area a 15-minute neighbourhood.
As a result, we have seen a number of UK towns and cities adopt the concept as part of their local planning policy.
The Healthy Streets for London initiative is a prime example of this, aiming to create streets that are safe, accessible and attractive for walking and cycling. The initiative acts as the framework of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and puts human health and experience at the heart of planning the city.
Meanwhile, in Manchester we have seen the adoption of a 15-minute neighbourhood concept as part of the “Our Manchester” strategy, which aims to reset priorities “to ensure Manchester can achieve its aim of being in the top-flight of world-class cities by 2025, with equality, inclusion and sustainability at its heart.”
Whilst around since the 1960s, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are becoming increasingly popular as a way to not only reduce traffic congestion and pollution, but to improve access to town centres through public transport too.
Oxford City Council is leading the way in this area as it aims to deliver a sustainable, reliable, and inclusive transport system through permanent LTNs. But it hasn’t been without opposition, with some conspiracy theorists believing it to be a restriction on free movement or ‘climate lockdown’.
Conspiracy theories aside, the 15-minute town offers us a vision for a more liveable, connected and sustainable future, where people can enjoy a high quality of life, whilst reducing their impact on the environment.