If you can walk or ride a bicycle to work in 15 minutes, and you can reach a grocery store, a park, a cafe, your children's school in the same time frame, you are living in what is called a “neighborhood 15 minutes. “
They are very difficult to find now, even in dense cities (the average New Yorker now takes about 43 minutes for drive to work). But it is a vision that Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, now wants to adopt throughout the city.
Hidalgo, who is currently in the running for re-election, strongly supported the idea of ”lto ville du quart d’heure” , or the city of 15 minutes, to create a post-car city. “It is a city of neighborhoods where you can find everything you need in 15 minutes from home”, he tweeted last week, attaching some images of the project (below). “This is the condition for the ecological transformation of the city which will simultaneously improve the daily lives of Parisians.”
“This is an ambition, a new vision for cities”, he claims Carlos Moreno, professor at Sorbonne University who originally conceived the project and advised Hidalgo in the implementation of his idea. Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, who argued that proximity is the key to making cities vital, argues that cities should be redesigned so that people can access basic social functions within their neighborhoods. Traditional urban design, with people going to a remote center, is outdated. “I want to radically change this vision of cities”, he claims. In part, it is a response to climate change and car pollution. But it is also about the quality of life.
Paris is already practicable on foot, and since the city has created new cycle paths, the number of cyclists has grown by 54% in the last year alone. But the aging of the railway system often has delays and many people continue to take the car. More than half of the people who work in the area have a 45-minute ride, as is the case in many European cities. In a survey, most Parisians said they would be willing to cut wages for a shorter journey.
Hidalgo's plan would add offices in neighborhoods where they are missing, so that people can work closer to home. Some people may work in centers coworking the neighborhood; Moreno says that for many jobs now, the biggest obstacle will simply be to convince companies on the possibility of successfully working remotely. Another key to the approach is to find multiple uses for the existing infrastructure. Libraries, stadiums and other buildings could be used outside their standard hours. Discos could double as gyms in the afternoon.
Paris has relatively little green space, so the city is adding vegetation to the school playgrounds and Mayor Hidalgo wants to open up access to these new “parks” to people in the neighborhoods on the weekends as a new place to relax. Two other large parks will be built and the city also wants to plant urban forests. Thickets of trees in the squares and in the former car parks. New gardens for urban agriculture they can provide neighborhoods with local food. Cars will be banned near schools when children arrive and leave to make children walking and cycling safe. The city will encourage a variety of local businesses, along with kiosks where citizens can meet and share services with each other. And since in many cases local resources already exist and could simply be underused, part of the concept involves reconnection of people with their neighborhoods.
A sketch of the project shows how a road could change: a large lane for cycling and walking, and where there were parking spaces on one side would be replaced with trees and terraces with bar tables and activities such as bicycle repair.
Hidalgo wants to pedestrianize the city center, with limited vehicle access for residents, emergency vehicles and a few other exceptions, as the next step in the long effort to reduce city driving. He wants to build even more cycle paths, asking for a “100% bike” city. (When she was elected in 2014, she promised to build 1,400 kilometers of cycle paths within this year; in December, the city has not yet reached its goal.)
For the city, efforts are part of the plan to become carbon neutral by mid-century. But it also aims to improve the quality of life for Parisians and to connect the citizens of the neighborhood. “Paris is a beautiful city, but it is a stressful and lonely city for the inhabitants, many do not know their neighbors and their neighborhood. If schools are open on weekends, if children can play on the streetif the services are located near you, the city will become much friendlier and solidarity will develop ”.
(Translation of the article published on Fast Company)