The idea of a ’15-minute city’ is arriving onto the scene from several sources at the moment. The Weekend FT published this piece by Natalie Whittle examining the idea of having everything you need within a 15 minute radius (walking or by bike) of where you live. She reports what many people are experiencing: working from home gives a new attention to one’s immediate neighbourhood. This trend has been rapidly accelerated by the COVID pandemic, with French car giant PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall) moving non-production staff to permanent home working. Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne in Paris created the idea of the 15-minute city, and is advising Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. Paris is one city which is already experimenting with much-improved cycle routes too, which helps atmosphere and health as well as keeping a local focus. The 15-minute neighbourhood idea has also been picked up by Camden council in London, with this article in Medium. There is also another longer article on Bloomberg by Patrick Sisson.
One point made in the article is particularly relevant to Village In The City advocates and supporters. Moreno says “we don’t want to recreate a village; we want a create a better urban organisation”. Us too. One persistent criticism of micro-localism is that it would constrain people to a small area around their houses. Of course, this is not the case. As cities develop, there will still be things we can’t get within our immediate neighbourhoods. I play saxophone in a big band, and I am unlikely to find a top-class group within 15 minutes walk. However, what a great basis for a life, to know people around you, be familiar with local suppliers and meeting places, to smile and greet people in the street. Having a life in your village is not an opposite of being active on a wider scale – it’s more of a necessary counterpoint. It balances our attention, provides a wider network of connections (including cross-generational and cross-demographic) and offers the chance of a rich life on the doorstep as well as on the train or plane.
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