Aerial view of La Defense, Paris

Mayors outline ’15-minute cities’ for post-COVID sustainability

An international coalition of mayors has called for the development of ’15-minute cities’ as part of a post-COVID sustainability plan.

The group claims residents should be able to meet all work and recreational needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from home.

C40 Cities is an international group of mayors and municipality leaders focused on fighting climate change and promoting sustainable development.

The term ’15-minute cities’ was coined by Professor Carlos Moreno, who studies innovation and sustainability in urban areas. Moreno’s recent research focuses on how city dwellers’ use of time could be reorganized to improve both living conditions and the environment. Moreno argued that the daily urban necessities should be a 15-minute reach on foot or bike, including work, hope, shops, education and healthcare.

The first mayor to actually apply it has been Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, who has worked on pedestrian infrastructure and car-free transit. Hidalgo even made the concept of a 15-minute city in the centre of her recent reelection campaign. Following such a model would help cities rebuild areas hard-hit by the pandemic and guarantee jobs and city services for all, the C40 argued in its letter.

“Fifteen-minute cities, micromobility, and more space for walking and biking are innovative solutions that will help our cities rebuild and restore our economy while protecting lives and cutting dangerous pollution,” said Carol M. Browner, former EPA administrator and board chair of the League of Conservation Voters.

“Even though it seems difficult to replicate, it’s the right way to go,” Dario Hidalgo, the senior mobility researcher for the World Resource Institute (WRI), told Bloomberg. “Walking and cycling present huge opportunities for small businesses in the neighborhood to thrive. It’s not just the reduction of emissions.”

Amid the pandemic, many cities around the world have taken advantage of the lockdowns to start car-free infrastructure projects. In Italy, the city of Milan added 35km (22 miles) of bike lanes downtown and will pedestrianize several school streets. In Canada, the city of Ottawa announced plans for 15-minute neighbourhoods, while Tallinn, Estonia, is building a green corridor through neighbourhoods.

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