The myth of the fifteen minute city
“Roads were invented so that men could drive to work in their cars” -and therefore are bad. This was the quote I remembered when I listened to BBC Radio 4 podcast – Future Cities – in which Tori Herridge was listening to Katrina Johnson-Zimmerman . (I can’t describe it as interviewing – more like curtsying). She appears to be in Philadelphia and by the time she got to Phoenix at the age of 20 it was her first exposure to a city..
No need for transport as everything is walkable
She explained her concept of the 15 minute city where anyone could walk or cycle in 15 minutes to everything they could possibly need. And that any road with more than one carriageway should be reduced to one to allow cycle-paths. Not a mention about the need for fast cheap and reliable public transport because clearly you don’t need it as ‘you ain’t going nowhere’.
The fifteen minute village
Now I live in a small village by the sea in Spain. Some of it is 500 years old and so clearly is not high rise. It’s quite possible to walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes. There are at least 10 supermarkets and local stores such as butchers, fruit-shops and pharmacies. And there are two health centres and community centres. And maybe 50 cafes and restaurants for the tourists.
A lot of the centre is pedestrianised. So far so good. I chose to have no car. It’s 300 steps from the beach, transport and main shops to my house. While I am not young, I am still able to carry my shopping but could not contemplate using a bicycle and neither can most other people, and I wonder for how long I can continue to walk.
Why escape ?
Still, everything I could possibly want is there. So why is it I continually want to escape?
- I need intellectual stimulation. Most of the old folk’s conversation is about what they had for lunch.
- I want to experience good original food from many different cultures not touristifed.
- I want to see the Art Galleries, attend good music events, and spend face to face time with friends and colleagues who are stimulating – and go to meet people for work.
None of this is available where I live. So II spend my time between the cities of Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona. It takes 2-3 hours on public transport to travel the 60km to the nearest mainline train and then the trains are frequent and cheap and that 2-3 hours is a reason I will move.
Worldwide experience of fifteen minute cities
Prior to this I worked in 22 counties including
- Lincoln, Nebraska – a fifteen minute city which closes at 1800 every day. I rented a car and escaped every weekend it was so boring.
- Hong Kong – a fifteen minute city because everything of interest is within one square mile. And you can go on a pub crawl by going to several bars on different floors in the same building. Escaped by boat!
- Dubai a fifteen minute city insofar as within 15 minutes of anywhere is everything, high density high rises everywhere. But despite the tram system and buses they need 10 lane highways not the least because the Emiratis and the elite still insist on driving everywhere in their SUVs and expensive sport cars. And in summer after 10 minutes outside you need a shower. There were places I would not live such as Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai Marina or near Burj Khalifa because they were the most likely to get bombed.
The ultimate case for the 15 minute city is that your enemy can bomb it easily – let me think of an example close to Israel. Katrina Johnson-Zimmerman didn’t mention that point.
Smart Coaching & Training works with 20 associates, in four continents speaking 12 languages and raised and working in a wide range of cultures. See our associates here.
Meet Author David Rigby at Professional Speakers Association (Spain) , convention in Barcelona November 18th.