June 17, 2021

Quotes: Dissing the 15-Minute City

The 15-minute city “is a model for urban development and mobility developed by Professor Carlos Moreno at the Sorbonne in Paris and widely popularised by Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo during her recent re-election campaign. The 15-minute city is one in which daily urban necessities are within a 15-minute commute by bike or on foot.”

More here.

Contrary and qualifying views were put forward at the London School of Economics Urban Age Conference:

Localising Transport Debate Summary

Key takeaways from the third Urban Age Debate

Key Takeaway 2: The 15-minute city is not a catch-all model that can be applied globally with ease, but it’s underlying concepts should be embraced

Overall, none of the speakers were strong advocates of implementing the 15-minute city model, “I’m unconvinced about the 15-minute city and I haven’t seen many urban environments where it can be adapted in the near future,” stated Sir Peter Hendy.

Ed Glaeser took a stronger stance against the 15-minute city, “I am very worried that a focus on enabling upper-middle income people to walk around in their nice little 15-minute neighbourhood precludes the far larger issue, which is how do we make sure our cities once again become places of opportunity for everyone? I am only interested in urban planning concepts that fundamentally solve that and I cannot see how the 15-minute city does.”

Ed went on to explain that some of the underlying elements of the 15-minute city are valuable, “We should praise the good elements of the 15-minute city: accessibility, less driving, embracing congestion pricing, reducing on-street parking requirements. But ultimately, we should bury the idea of a city that is chopped up into 15-minute bits. We must embrace connection post-Covid, we must embrace a re-emergence of the whole city, of humanity that is connected not just with the people next to you, but with all of our metropole, of all of the world.”


Key Takeaway 3: Accessibility of cities for various opportunities remains of utmost importance, especially in rapidly urbanising global contexts  

When discussing the value of mobility and transportation in and around cities, Yolisa Kani claimed that, “Accessing a city in South Africa is not a matter of choice. It’s a matter of survival, you have to be in the city centre.” She went on to stress that, “The 15-minute city is a very noble idea, but for me it’s an old target that we’ve been chasing as cities and is elusive for a developing South African city because of our context.” Yolisa continued by highlighting the challenge of dealing with unintegrated and multi-modal transportation systems across South Africa that would severely limit the application of the 15-minute city idea.

Ed Glaeser picked up on this idea expressing that, “We need to make sure that people can access the wonders of the city and can access the cornucopia of joys that exist throughout an urban area. We particularly need to make sure that we enable people who live in poorer parts of the city to access jobs in richer parts of the city, and there is nothing more important than that.”

These equity concerns underlined the discussion of urban accessibility, as speakers expressed how Covid-19 has drastically revealed the inequities of transportation systems and mobility.

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