3Q 2021 | IN-6291

The 15-Minute city is an opportunity for cities to become less reliant on cars, create more sustainable living, and promote well-being among citizens.

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Building Back Better What Does it Mean?


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented opportunity for governments throughout the world to redesign their cities and plan for the future. Many different organizations have cited the ‘Building Back Better’ mantra as a way out of the pandemic and towards a more sustainable future. One of the concepts that is gaining a lot of traction with organizations such as WHO (World Health Organization), C40 Cities, and the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), is 15-minute cities. The 15-minute city is the idea that residents should not have to walk or cycle more than fifteen minutes to reach most of their needs. A 15-minute city can also be viewed as a collection of 15-minute neighborhoods. For 15-minute neighborhoods to be successful, they are required to provide for residents from different demographics and age groups, as they can have very different needs. It is thought that in the current era of the fourth industrial revolution that the 15-minute city could help build urban resilience and sustainability goals.

15-Minute Smarty Cities


Digitalization is a key enabler of a 15-minute city as it can allow for a resident to access the basic services that are required for life—living, working, commerce, healthcare, education, and entertainment—without leaving their neighborhood. The ability to deliver services in a timely manner is a key pillar of the concept as residents spend less time commuting and traveling. Therefore, it promotes the use of different smart city concepts such as traffic management, smart healthcare, smart street lighting, and air quality monitoring. As these services either promote the concept (smart health care) or monitor its effectiveness (traffic management and air quality monitoring on smart streetlights). A 15-minute city should decrease the reliance on cars and increase the air quality in a neighborhood, as well as decrease commuting time and increase the general wellbeing on citizens.            

However, there are some issues with transitioning to a 15-minute neighborhood. In cities such as Paris or London where the city is already set out in smaller neighborhoods, it is an easier transition than in cities in the U.S., where they have been designed for using cars. The 15-minute city runs the risk of increasing inequality between neighborhoods if it is not designed with equity in mind. Therefore, it is a place-based solution that is not suitable for all cities but can be a great design guide for greenfield sites. The proposed projects of the ‘Linear City’ in Saudi Arabia and the Telosa in the U.S. are examples of the 15-minute city being used as the basis for city design. The concept has already been introduced in city planning in Paris and in the 20-minute neighborhoods in Melbourne. These concepts are being used to help guide the city planners to ensure that people are put at the heart of the city.

Opportunities in the 15-Minute City


The 15-minute city promotes the need for smart city concepts in order to be successful. It promotes the necessity for instant and flexible access to a number of services, including smart mobility, e-governance, smart healthcare, and smart waste management. All of these services either allow for the reduction of travel or streamline the current travel options. In order to successfully plan for a 15-minute city data needs to be collected to understand the needs of each area. Any technology that enables for the digitalization of services and proper asset tracking and movement of goods helps enable the concept. These cities are people-centered with streets designed for walking and cycling. This increases the relevance and need for autonomous and electric “shuttles”. In the pedestrianized neighborhoods these this type of vehicle would be used to transport goods and services such as mobile doctors, local transit, and mobile retail units. These techniques are demonstrated in the Toyota Woven City in Tokyo and allows for services to be brought to the citizens. Other technologies such as digital twins help to ensure that planned development will have the desired effect.          

In Paris, they introduced two different data collection methods to help with smart planning for their 15-minute neighborhoods. They’ve created an Internet of Things (IoT) network in urban furniture to monitor its usage and how people are using parks (either as walkways or for enjoyment). Additionally, for those with a certain app, when they come in range of a sensor, they are prompted to complete a survey. These surveys are place-specific and allows residents to give anonymous feedback on how they are using the city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brough about an accelerated opportunity for this concept as more people than ever are working from home and discovering their own neighborhoods. The 15-minute city can help governments to attain their sustainable development goals as it helps reduce the reliance on cars and increases walking and cycling. It does, however, require proper planning and digitalization on order to ensure the equitable development and sustainability. For this concept to work it would be key that under-serviced neighborhoods are targeted for development first as they have the most to gain from reduction in the reliance on cars and the proximity to essential services.