Livable Cities & Resilient Infrastructure
20-minute Cities: Bold Visions for Urban Living
City officials the world over are looking toward bold overhauls of urban systems to create happier, greener and more human-scaled cities — and mobility always seems to play a lead role.
Fast Company recently published an article on Paris’ mayor’s vision of transforming France’s capital into a 15-minute city where “everyone can reach their work, home, school and any other amenity within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.” The initiative is, in effect, a thrust to improve quality of life for the city’s residents. As one of the main architects of the plan, “smart city” professor Carlos Moreno says, “We want to radically change this vision of cities. In part, it’s a response to climate change and the pollution from cars — but it’s equally about quality of life.”
A central theme of the plan is to turn Paris into a car-free city, which “would reduce two serious problems plaguing many Parisians: the air pollution that kills 3,000 people a year, which is largely caused by car traffic, and the many hours lost in transport suffered [while going] to work.” Facing similar problems, many other cities around the world are joining in the car-free urban revolution.
Earlier this year, in Southern Europe, Barcelona declared a climate emergency and a sweeping range of measures to cut greenhouse gases in half by 2030. Although the tone of Barcelona’s plan is distinct from that of Paris — one stresses climate emergency, and the other, quality of life — they both come to the same conclusions. Cities need to give up road space to pedestrians and bikes, public mass transit needs to be increased, and neighborhoods need to hold a full spectrum of housing, education, healthcare, work, retail and social-life.
CityLab also noted that “Portland, [Oregon] has a similar ambition with ‘20-minute neighborhoods’. Melbourne also made that commitment in its recent master plan, and Vancouver wants 90% of residents to live in ‘complete communities’ by 2030, up from 45% today.”
This all seems to point toward something that has been spoken of for years, but is only just taking effect — the idea that the way our cities function in the 21st century may depart drastically from the cities we’ve inherited from the 20th century. If that’s the case, which modes of mobility would we need to own in a 15-minute city, and which could we share?
Will any forms of private ownership become completely redundant, rendered obsolete by our radical proximity? What sorts of digital infrastructures could support this on a local, communal and city level? And finally, in a city where people don’t need to move as far or as often, how would that affect the way we make, buy, consume and dispose of physical goods?