Authors: María Teresa Baquero, María José Zúñiga and Benjamin Büttner

This concept was introduced by urbanist Carlos Moreno, and it describes an idyllic neighbourhood where everything, from shops, health service, housing, leisure activities or education, is within a short walk or a short bike ride. A lot of research has been done to support the concept, including this report “±15-Minute City: Human-centred planning in action – Mobility for more liveable urban spaces”  which we are going to explore in the post.

This report assessed the positive impacts and challenges of the implementation of a 15-minute city concept in different contexts and proposed basic principles and frameworks. It also assessed 5 cities with a 15-minute city score, including Amsterdam, Madrid and Munich, and highlights the high level of accessibility that most European cities offer their citizens in terms of proximity to basic services. Let’s take a look at what life in these cities would be like from another user’s perspective.  

I am Amila. I am 9 years old. I was born in Amsterdam, but my parents are from Lebanon. I meet my friend Antje every morning and we walk to school together. We like to play in the park, but sometimes we have to run because we are late. My mom tells me to be careful at the intersections, but sometimes I forget. Every afternoon my mom picks me up with my little brother. I want to help her because she looks tired, but the pram is hard to move. Sometimes there is not enough space on the pavement and there are no ramps. Often, we are in a hurry because she has Dutch lessons in the community centre while my little brother and I play with other children in the backyard. On the way home, we stop at the local market and shop for groceries. I like my neighbourhood because people smile at us, even if we sometimes don’t understand each other

I am Ignacio. I am a 78-year-old man from Madrid and I love my neighbourhood. I have lived there all my life. I remember the old days when I used to commute an hour to work, returning home only to sleep. Now I’m retired. Sadly, my beloved wife passed away, leaving me alone at home. My children are busy with their own lives but live nearby and visit me on weekends. However, my days are not boring. Every morning I buy the newspaper at the corner kiosk and then I visit Doña Blanca´s bakery to purchase fresh bread and enjoy good coffee while watching the news. At eleven, I make my way to the community centre; my son says it’s only a five-minute walk, but it takes me longer. It is worth it because I play Parcheesi with my friends there. In the afternoon, on my way home, I sit on the same bench at the park, not just because I get tired, but I like to watch children play

I am Emma, a 37-year-old bisexual woman living in Munich with a deep love of nature. I’m very fortunate to live close to the beautiful English Garden. As a full-time teacher at a middle school in the city centre, my 15-minute commute through the park is refreshing most of the year, but cycling to work during the winter months is a challenge. Unfortunately, a car hit me last Friday as I crossed an intersection, so I am out of work. The cycle lane was inaccessible due to snow, forcing me to navigate the street between buses, cars and angry drivers. I felt intimidated. However, I am grateful for my small pleasures close to home, such as the LGBTIQ+ centre where my friends meet, my favourite bakery and the organic market. Despite my forced holiday, I can still enjoy my neighbourhood at a slower pace. 

Cities are complex. The ±15-min city model could be an opportunity to make progress redesigning human-centred, more accessible, equitable and liveable neighbourhoods. Its application should include indicators, such as design free of barriers, safety, human abilities, freedom and affordability, in all their goals, prioritizing walking and cycling access to basic services for ALL.

If you want to learn more about the ±15-min city, check our course Street experiments for sustainable and resilient cities on the EIT Campus