The Green Tau: issue 8, 18th July

Live Local: the Fifteen Minute City

People Street Como City Walk Friends Couple Road

Imagine living in a neighbourhood where everything one needed on a daily basis lay within a fifteen minute journey – on foot or cycle – of one’s home. A neighbourhood where you can safely walk or cycle to the shops, school, medical centre, park, gym, swimming pool, office, cafe, the pub. A neighbourhood with (largely) traffic free streets, where children can cycle safely and those with impaired mobility/ sight/ hearing can easily cross the road. A neighbourhood where you know your neighbour, the barista at the cafe, the coach at the gym. A neighbourhood where you know you are part of the community. 

How far can you walk in 15 minutes? 3/4 or even a full mile. 

And by cycle? – maybe 2 to 4 miles. 

Could you get much further by car? 

The average speed of traffic in London is around 7-8mph, suggesting one could travel 2 miles in quarter of an hour. But then one would have to find somewhere to park, so the distance you could travel by car might well be much less than 2 miles.

Imagine a whole city made up of such neighbourhoods and you have the Fifteen Minute City. This concept is being a  actively pursued in Paris by the mayor, Anne Hidalgo. Hidalgo proposes to have a cycle lane in every street and to remove 60,000 parking spaces for private cars whilst at the same time spending €1b per year for on greening both streets and school playgrounds. She has already added some 50km of cycle paths and banned high polluting vehicles. Similar projects are being trialed in Milan, Madrid, Seattle and Ottawa, whilst Melbourne and Edinburgh are pursuing twenty minute neighbourhoods. 

What are the benefits? 

Benefits social cohesion and community strength. 

Supports local business and enterprise.

Less time spent commuting. Fewer traffic jams.

Less air pollution. Reduced CO2 emissions.

Option to repurpose road space as green spaces. Greater biodiversity.

Improved levels of mobility for everyone. Better health.

Increased quality of life.

If you want to hear about the Fifteen Minute City from its creator, Carlos Moreno, tune into the following YouTube episode:-

Can we as individuals go some way to creating our own fifteen minute neighbourhood? We can choose to patronise local shops and businesses, use local leisure facilities and green spaces. We can choose to walk or cycle to each destination, and we can seek out routes that green and interesting – and perhaps discover paths we didn’t know existed! 

If we become accustomed to walking or cycling 15 minutes on a day to day basis, we will find we can transfer to a lifestyle that doesn’t need a private car. For those longer but less frequent journeys we can as easily walk to the station and take the train, or book a taxi or hire a car. If that becomes the norm just imagine the effect it will have on local neighbourhood and on carbon emissions.

This pictogram shows my 15 minute neighbourhood: why not have a go at drawing one centred on your home?

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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