Some cities such as Paris, Milan and New York are moving towards developing a '15 minute city' as during the global pandemic of COVID-19, people have realized that accessibility is paramount. In a '15-minute-city,' everyone can meet most of their needs within a short walk or bicycle ride from their home. It is a neighbourhood built in such a way that residents can meet their needs such as groceries, entertainment, work/office, schools, hospitals by walking or cycling 15 to 20m minutes from their home. This would not only improve quality of life as it would save time but would also reduce the level of pollution. The concept is an eco-friendly one.

This year in April, Giuseppe Sala, Milan's mayor, announced that the area would host a pilot project for "rethinking the rhythms". The plan is to offer services and quality of life within the space of 15 minutes on foot from home. Even Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo made it her re-election agenda. A similar concept is developed by Professor Carlos Monero, in which daily urban necessities are within 15-minute reach on foot or bike. In Monero's vision, services such as entertainment, health, education, home and work should all be available within the same time a commuter might once have waited on a railway platform. All in all, the idea is based on research into how city dwellers' use of time could be reorganized to improve both living conditions and environment. Above all, a 15-minute city is one that cuts down unnecessary journeys which eventually reduces the presence of cars on roads.

The concept is recognized as an effective one by the C40 Cities Group. This group has now declared '15-minute-cities' its prime agenda to ensure 'green and just' in the cities. Indian cities Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Jaipur and Kolkata are also part of the group. However, the concept is not new to India. The historic city of Jaipur was developed on a similar concept around 300 years ago. The essential services, recreational facilities and workplaces were within 15 minutes of housing in the walled city. Apart from this, the residents here usually use the ground floor for commercial purposes and the upper floor as a house.

How a 15 minute city should be?

Apart from having an access to most of the facilities nearby, before developing a 15-minute city following things should be kept in mind:

  • Every neighbourhood should have a variety of housing types so that everyone, a rich, middle class or poor, could afford them.
  • Residents should have fresh and clean air to breathe in which is free from harmful chemicals or pollutants.
  • More people should be able to work closer to their homes.

Things important for a 15-minute city

  • Walking and cycling-friendly roads which could be achieved by reallocating street space to pedestrians and cyclists.
  • We need to decentralize our cities and would need to develop services nearby.
  • Affordable housing is a must.
  • Digitalization is the key as it would reduce the need for travelling.
  • Flexible usage of buildings and public properties. For example, a playground can be used to organize functions.
  • Local urban life needs to be developed so that people don't feel the need to travel to a different location to have fun because it is not only about basic facilities but also entertainment and leisure.

Written by: Utkarsha Tyagi

About the Author: Passionate about environment issues, Utkarsha Tyagi has worked as a columnist with the leading publications such as Hindustan Times.