The Concept of Fifteen-Minute Cities

Introduction

The main motivation for the proposal was to use the pandemic as a catalyst to propose a comprehensive solution for cities all over the globe including UK and USA, Canada and New Zealand that moves well beyond tweaks to the current habit of building more of the same onto the urban fabric. The proposal is therefore organized into five main sections.

The first section contains an introduction that explains why it is very urgent that we urgently decarbonize the built environment and why it is already time to address the two massive new trends of self-reliance and remote working.

Next is a literature review that provides an outline of compact city planning, the case for radical changes, and why the concept of the Fifteen-Minute City is significantly different from and superior to what has gone before.

After that is the section on the model of the Fifteen-Minute City, which provides an outline of the eight main dimensions that when scaled and implemented together generate the concept of the Fifteen-Minute City.

A pressing environmental challenge faced by cities is to reduce energy consumption (and thus reduce greenhouse gases) in urban areas. One way the potential consumption of energy can be significantly reduced is through inspiration from the compact city theories that promote urban intensification and associated reductions in travel.

The corona virus pandemic has helped make it apparent in people’s thinking about cities that creating local, trip reduction, resource-efficient, self-reliant places can provide significant quality-of-life benefits. This proposal critically reviews the key factors that can be used to inspire the widespread implementation of the concept of the Fifteen-Minute City, which has become increasingly popular in the wake of the pandemic.

Background

Cities are the most sustainable option for space-based human habitation in the modern era. An ever-increasing percentage of the Earth’s population is residing in cities.

And under any metric—economic, social, democratic, environmental, or energy performance—higher urban density is generally more efficient, enabling people to benefit from diversity, economies of scale, agglomeration, or efficiency for mobility.

This proposal, argues that in the current context in some categories of cities—mainly in the larger, metropolitan ones—there are latent demands in relation to social inclusion, collective health, and common goods that are not being satisfied. In these categories of cities, the majority of places are two- and three-dimensional logistical “objects” that serve a set of pre-defined separate functions, targeting city-wide occurrences, while they are not spatially designed to serve the dynamics of everyday living individuals.

This paper argues that the reconstitution of cities—more specifically, ensuring equal access to locations that are as numerous as possible, that are located as close as possible to one’s residence, and that convey as many functionalities as possible—constitutes a latent demand. In this context, the fifteen-minute city can be conceived and, in fact, materialized.

The ultimate goal of this paper is to devise a coherent, comprehensive, and holistic blueprint for the implementation of the fifteen-minute city, thus explicitly presenting a comprehensive proposal by developing its underlying concepts and establishing governance and policy pathways for its materialization. The proposal and research are procedurally developed in the following way.

The study argues that the development of “15-minute cities” needs to transcend the limited visibility of physical urban spaces and present a “15-minute society”.

A thorough understanding and development of the 15-minute society need one to compare the geographic distributions of urban life with trip patterns.

This comparison will help us answer how physical locations interact with trip-making behaviours in 15-minute life systems and then further help planners to prioritize system-level resources that facilitate enhanced societal well-being.

To promote increased accessibility and reduced travel demand, the concept of the “15-minute city” has recently attracted much attention from planners and politicians.

Travel time has been widely used to measure accessibility, and a buffer method has been widely adopted to capture spatial accessibility profiles. On the one hand, the “15-minute city” ethos aims to address questions of social equity and environmental sustainability by emphasizing localism and reduced car dependency. On the other hand, the popularity of electricity-powered bicycles and e-shared mobility services create ideal drag factors for promoting the concept.

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