In November 2022, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) released its report on “± 15-Minute City: Human-centred planning in action - Mobility for more liveable urban spaces”. The report, funded by EIT Urban Mobility, focuses on how the trendy concept of the 15-Minute City placed humans at the centre of urban planning. Learn more about the report content and its connection with the EX-TRA project below.
Figure 1. ± 15-Minute City ideation. Source: https://www.eiturbanmobility.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/EIT-UrbanMobilityNext9_15-min-City_144dpi.pdf
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a primary driver of changing our cities’ built environment. Due to its lockdowns and rough moving restrictions, people realised there was a lack of liveable spaces and human-centred neighbourhoods. Besides, most of these failures are linked to the car-oriented city model. These issues led to the creation of the 15-Minute City Concept by Carlos Moreno. The report analysed the 15-Minute City concepts to implement the human-centric approach later and brought out key outcomes, implementation challenges and recommendations. Below, find a summary of the most relevant topics of the report.
The human-oriented planning paradigm of the ± 15-Minute City
Carlos Moreno has defined the 15-Minute City concept as "an urban set-up where locals are able to access all of their basic essentials at distances that would not take them more than 15 min by foot or by bicycle" (Moreno et al., 2021, p. 100). Its goal is to create healthier, more liveable, equitable, sustainable, and resilient cities. Many cities have implemented the 15-Minute City concept in their urban planning agendas. With Paris as the leading example, Europe has become the breeding ground for new ± 15-Minute Cities. The report has collected 16 municipalities that have adopted or are in the process of involving the ± 15-Minute City strategy. The analysis focused on whether the municipalities share the critical planning principles of Carlos Moreno. These principles are proximity, density, diversity of land uses and people, ubiquity, walkability and cyclability, livability, and placemaking. However, TUM has added "proximity to public transport" as another category complementary to urban mobility analysis. The study of the 16 municipalities’ results revealed four typical spatial implementation strategies: transit-oriented-development, (re)development of and around high/main streets, development around vertical centres/hubs and reuse of existing (public) spaces. Adopting the ± 15-Minute City approach could bring citizens social, health, economic and environmental benefits. However, its implementation varies depending on the context. It could also involve threats and weaknesses, especially in suburban areas.
An ideal only for the urban centre? Feasibility in different spatial contexts
The study realised that transferring the ± 15-Minute City approach to different spatial contexts is challenging. There is a debate on how adaptable suburban towns are to implement the concept. Most of the challenges in suburban areas are implications on land use, territorial jurisdiction, and morphology. Therefore, its transitions should be based on the cities' morphologies and needs (Moreno et al., 2021).
On the other hand, there are also challenges in the urban context. Gentrification and vacancies of retail stores in historic town centres are the most challenging to overcome. The ubiquity concept should be present to avoid favouring specific neighbourhoods more than others. The 15-Minute City model must be understood and implemented alongside socially inclusive development processes (TUMI, 2021).
The 15-Minute City for whom?
The ±15-Minute City must ensure access to essential services for all social groups regardless of their abilities, socioeconomic demographic, and cultural factors. The allocation of essential services and spatial distribution has been a social justice planning problem (Leventhal, 1980). Regarding mobility, social injustices are reflected mainly by a combination of distance, inadequate transport, and limited ways of interconnection. Therefore, when the question arises of “whom” should consider new policies and redesign recommendations for the ±15-Minute City framework, the report answer: “for ALL”.
Continuing with the umbrella of social justice, walking and cycling modes of transport play an important role. Walking is the most affordable, inclusive, and accessible travel mode for any age and income level compared to other active mobility options (Milias & Psyllidis, 2022). Besides, in cities with adequate cycling infrastructure, it is one of the most popular modes of travel. Hence, to improve walking and cycling policies and assessments, they should be subject to ability, travel purpose, and environmental conditions.
The ±15-Minute City approach should apply universal accessibility or “design for all” concepts in their policies. It includes removing physical barriers and cognitive, visual, and auditive ones. Higher quality and accessible, universal design walking and cycling networks in most under-served and low-income neighbourhoods, ensuring the connection to all city areas, combined with frequent and affordable public transport, are some concrete ways to ensure accessibility to all users in a ±15-minute development model (Bruntlett, 2022).
Common planning principles for a ±15-Minute City. The analysis of the ±15-Minute City concept and its potential benefits, limitations, and opportunities shows that no one approach could be transferred everywhere. However, it also brought up a large consensus of fundamental planning principles to implement. Figure 2.0 explain the principles the study has developed.
Figure 2.0. ±15-Minute City Planning Principles.
Roadmap: Implementation of a ±15-Minute City
For the study, five workshops were conducted in five European cities: Amsterdam (Netherlands), Ghent (Belgium), Madrid (Spain), Milan (Italy) and Munich (Germany). The results of each workshop contributed to creating a roadmap that helps planning practitioners, policymakers, government, and organisations to put the ±15-Minute City into practice. Figure 3.0 explains in detail the five steps the study has developed for the ±15-Minute City implementation.
Figure 3.0. ±15-Minute City Roadmap.
Street Experiments Tool (SET) Throughout the study, it was realised that one of the significant challenges is driving change. However, due to times of crisis, cities have started experimenting with their city streets and public spaces. The report emphasised street experiments as a tool to offer quick solutions to make more resilient cities. There are three specific principles that street experiments can help to achieve the ±15-Minute City: walk- and cyclability, public spaces and placemaking, and revitalising local economy to ensure proximity to services and mix-land use. Some of the principles of street experiments, which to some extent have helped achieve the ±15- Minute City, are the implementation of pop-up cycle lanes, closing the streets to traffic and opening them to citizens, offering spaces of interaction that foster placemaking and increasing local economy. Besides, some cities started to follow the implementation of the already known “Parklets”, landscaped and small gathering areas, often in former on-street parking spaces (Lydon & García, 2015). Compared to traditional planning, the low-cost measures mentioned above can provide quick and practical solutions to cities transitioning towards the ±15-Minute City.
Conclusion The report focuses on bringing citizens to the centre of the 15-Minute City concept. It aims to provide people with all the necessary destinations within ±15-Minutes from their homes, walking or cycling. However, the conceptualisation of the ±15-Minute City should keep a context-dependent perspective. Its implementation could generate social cohesion, improve mental and physical health, create more environmentally friendly cities, and enhance local services and the economy. However, it is essential to be aware of possible new waves of gentrification. The report can support cities and planning practitioners to take a step forward to design human-centred, more accessible, just, and liveable neighbourhoods and cities for ALL.
References Bruntlett, M. (2022). The 15-Minute City: A Feminist Utopia. Published by Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH Sector Project Sustainable Mobility Bonn and Eschborn. https://womenmobilize.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/TUMI_WMW_Feminism_and_the15min_City.pdf
Leventhal, G.S. (1980). What Should Be Done with Equity Theory? In: Gergen, K.J., Greenberg, M.S., Willis, R.H. (eds) Social Exchange. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4613-3087-5_2
Lydon, M., Garcia, A. & Duany, A. (2015). Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change (English Edition). Island Press.
Milias, V., & Psyllidis, A. (2022). Measuring spatial age segregation through the lens of co-accessibility to urban activities. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 95(April), 101829. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2022.101829
Moreno, C., Allam, Z., Chabaud, D., Gall, C., & Pratlong, F. (2021). Introducing the “15-minute city”: Sustainability, resilience and place identity in future post-pandemic cities. Smart Cities, 4(1), 93–111. https://doi.org/10.3390/smartcities4010006
TUMI Management (2021). Strategic Outlook: the 15-Minute City. https://www.transformative-mobility.org/assets/publications/TUMI_The-15-Minute-City_2021-07.pdf