Fifteen-minute cities could be the future of urban planning

town five•ten minutes away


1. An urban planning principle that makes essential services accessible to all city dwellers in a 15 minutes

We know that it’s better for people to work close to home, and if they can… have around them the leisure and services they need, it allows them to have a more peaceful existence.

—Carlos Moreno, professor at Panthéon-Sorbonne University

In my city, all I need is already one 15-minutes by car. So what?

The idea isn’t just for convenience. It is about equity, habitability and climate resilience. Drivers can access jobs, schools, groceries, and basic necessities fairly easily in most U.S. cities, but the story is different for those who rely on public transportation, those with mobility issues, and those without a car.

Either way, think how different city life would be without commuting. According to Carlos Moreno, a professor at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University closely linked to the 15-minute city concept, it is about more beautiful, socially and ecologically sustainable cities. Every resident, including the carless, should be able to access the essence of this urban experience, Moreno says— including housing, work, food, health, education, culture and leisure.

Is a 15-minute city even exists?

The idea became a centerpiece for Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo during her 2020 re-election. A member of France’s Socialist Party, Hidalgo has expanded social housing in wealthier neighborhoods and banned gas-drinkers from some areas since then. 2014. Now, Hidalgo named a commissioner for the 15city-minute” to redevelop neighborhood squares outside shopping centers, provide 30% of city housing stock under public control by 2030 and create 900 kilometers of cycle paths.

What about the car-obsessed United States?

Portland, Oregon, used 20-minute neighborhoods as a principle of planning and climate action for more than a decade. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is backing a plan that has already seen the city’s bike lane network grow from ten miles or so 250.

Great. What’s the catch?

Detroit is also a good example of potential pitfalls. While a $17 million pedestrians has transformed its Livernois-McNichols sector into a 20-minute utopia (wide sidewalks, abundant lighting, public art), wide swathes of Detroit lack of full-service grocery stores.

During this time, a study of the moveBuddha site has ranked the cities on their 15-minute potential and found many of the top contenders are, like San Francisco, rapidly gentrifying metropolises – unaffordable for working-class people. The forces that have made walkable neighborhoods so rare – such as real estate speculation, urban segregation and the abandonment of public transport – are not easily reversed.

This makes the 15-ville has a laudable objective in a larger political project: housing, education and a sidewalk café for all.

It’s part of The Big Idea,” a monthly series offering brief introductions to progressive theories, policies, tools, and strategies that can help us envision a world beyond capitalism. For the past In these times transformational urbanism coverage, see, What would a feminist city look like? Urban gardening in Chicago: new roots for an old community” and the Creative Class’ and Comeback Cities: Beyond the Hype. »