Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, running for re-election, says that Paris needs to be re-imagined as a “15-minute city.” Under her watch the city has banned cars from areas of the city and worked to unclog urban congestion by making it easier to get around without automobiles. Now she says it’s time to take things a step further – by redesigning how the city functions so that residents live within 15 minutes of all the things they need for day-to-day life:

“There are six things that make an urbanite happy. Dwelling in dignity, working in proper conditions, [being able to gain] provisions, well-being, education and leisure. To improve quality of life, you need to reduce the access radius for these functions.” That commitment to bringing all life’s essentials to each neighborhood means creating a more thoroughly integrated urban fabric, where stores mix with homes, bars mix with health centers, and schools with office buildings.

It’s an idea that fights conventional wisdom in urban design. “This focus on mixing as many uses as possible within the same space challenges much of the planning orthodoxy of the past century or so, which has studiously attempted to separate residential areas from retail, entertainment, manufacturing, and office districts.”

And it’s an idea that is being tried in various forms, elsewhere:

In Portland, Oregon, walking-distance-limited neighborhood planning is seen as central to climate action: The city aims to cover 90 percent of the city in so-called “20-minute neighborhoods,” where all basic needs—with the exception of work—can be reached within a third of an hour of walking time. In Australia, Melbourne rolled out a similar pilot in 2018.

The urban village idea is nothing new, but this idea challenges residents (and planners) to think about how they design and use large cities – not as a vast landscape in which all things are accessible, but as a mosaic of small communities, each of which offers the resources for everyday life.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This post of Doug’s is the perfect introduction to Mark Hinshaw’s simultaneous coverage of how the same passions driving Paris’s mayor to return focus–and power–to the neighborhood.

  2. And she’s likely to be re-elected. Coupled with some custom greening rethinks afoot–as well as a variety of auto-reductions over the years, this is also a major tout to climate change for Paris. This is also vintage Leon Krier and new urbanist thinking, shared with a flair as Paris always has and will. This thinking does abound in the EU, more in some places than others. In Seattle, Futurewise and others have been on the walk-shed path for years–it’s also reflected in Sound Transit TOD polices, comprehensive plans, etc. An interesting thought–will Paris do a better job of selling the urbanist meme–just because it’s Paris?

  3. We lived in the University District for seven years, in part because as a neighborhood, it fulfilled all those qualities. We could get what we needed, find what we enjoyed, and when we needed to go elsewhere, we were well served by public transit. If we could have bought the house where we rented a flat, we would have done it. But when that didn’t work, we moved a smidge north, to the Roosevelt neighborhood. We couldn’t walk to a library or a post office, but otherwise we’ve been very well served. After growing up in Skyway, where you needed a car for too many tasks, I’ve been very aware of the urban design that Mayor Hidalgo is promoting — it feels very sensible to me.

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