Long commutes and traffic congestion are part of modern city living. The 15-minute city is a concept that encourages people to live, work and play within 15 minutes of where they live. Cities of the future reduce congestion and restrict or ban cars.
The way we work is already impacting cities. Managed workspace can help the 15-minute city concept.
What is a 15-minute city?
A 15-minute city encourages people to live in a way that puts everything they need within a 15-minute walk or cycle of their home.
The concept was envisioned by Professor Carlos Moreno at Pantheon Sorbonne University in Paris. In a recent interview, he said, “We need to reconcile urban dwellers with their location, with their district, with their street. We need to fight against enmity and loneliness, and we need to learn to love our neighbourhoods. The name for this is topophilia – love of a place.”
The concept is taking off in major cities. Quality of life improves dramatically when people no longer have to commute for hours and can enjoy their city without stressing about parking and petrol costs.
In order to work, each neighbourhood within the city needs to fulfil six social functions:
This means housing must be integrated with shops, restaurants, hospitals, parks and offices.
The role of managed workspace in 15-minute cities
Managed workspaces, like The Workspace, are all about convenience. They have everything a business needs without lengthy commutes or high overheads.
Managed workspaces are structured so that different companies share access to business services under one roof.
Members have access to kitchens, canteens, printing services and meeting or boardrooms.
Most managed workspaces are in central locations with easy access to public transport, restaurants, shops and other businesses.
Our Melrose Arch branch, for example, is a five-minute walk from a gym, a Clicks pharmacy, a shopping mall, a Woolworths, five high-end restaurants and two hotels.
Many coworking spaces are located in lifestyle or shopping centres, like our Pretoria branch in The Club. Members have easy access to shops, banks, ATMs, restaurants and cinemas.
Close to employees’ homes
With flexible terms and multiple branches in major cities, it’s easier for employees to access a professional workspace close to where they live.
Members have access to all branches of The Workspace, so each team member can choose which branch is most convenient.
The 15-minute city in a South African context: pros and cons
The 15-minute city concept sounds great. Of course, it’s not going to work in every city around the world.
In South Africa, it would be easy for it to lead to greater inequality. The layouts of cities would need to be changed, which is impractical.
We can still learn from the advantages and disadvantages of the 15-minute city concept. Here are the pros and cons for South African cities.
Pro: Reduced congestion and emissions
All our major cities are congested. Encouraging people to live closer to work would help reduce traffic and improve air quality.
Pro: Better health and wellness
Encouraging people to walk, cycle and spend less time in their cars would have a positive effect on most people’s health.
Pro: Economic boost
A 15-minute lifestyle would require more essential businesses closer to where people live. This could give the economy a boost and cut unemployment.
Pro: A stronger community spirit
People being present on our streets and socialising with their neighbours could improve the sense of community and make streets safer.
Pro: A more frugal lifestyle
If everything a household needs is a 15-minute walk or cycle away, there may be no need to buy a car, which could reduce people’s expenses.
Con: Spatial planning
With our current spatial planning, most people live on the outskirts of the city. The majority of work opportunities are too far for them to walk or cycle.
Con: Income inequality
Neighbourhoods with more amenities, like restaurants and office parks, become increasingly expensive. There’s a danger of gentrification unless incomes rise to match this increase.
Con: High crime rate
Encouraging people to walk or cycle to work or shops is dangerous in some areas. A 15-minute city can’t work unless pedestrians are safe.
The cost of restructuring a city to be walkable and cyclable is hard to justify when some neighbourhoods don’t have basic amenities like homes, gutters and street lights.
Examples of 15-minute cities
Even with the downsides, many cities are making the 15-minute city model work by slowly introducing measures to encourage this lifestyle.
Paris is strongly pursuing a 15-minute city vision. Cars have been banned in some areas and will be banned in all areas by 2030. The city has constructed nearly 1,500 kilometres of bicycle lanes in the past five years.
Barcelona has introduced many car-free blocks within the city. It aims to create more spaces for pedestrians, bicycles and public transport. According to the mayor, 90% of the city’s population supports these changes.
New York’s transport commissioner wants to reclaim street space as pedestrian spaces and outdoor activities. The city has created 644 km of bike paths, seven rapid bus routes and launched 70 plazas. It has successfully reclaimed 73 hectares of former street space.
Ottawa recently launched a 25-year plan to create 15-minute neighbourhoods. The aim is to have all residents making most of their daily trips by foot, bicycle, public transport or ridesharing within a 15-minute footprint.
Copenhagen “pedestrianised” its main shopping street back in 1962. One of the areas has even been designed to be a five-minute district. The plan is to expand this district to incorporate 40,000 inhabitants who work in the area.
Melbourne’s plan involves a 20-minute city where amenities are no more than an 800-metre walk. Research shows 20 minutes is the maximum time people will walk to shops and restaurants.
How The Workspace can support the 15-minute city
At The Workspace, we believe that managed workspace can support the 15-minute city concept in a number of ways.
We offer affordable, fully serviced offices and coworking, and all our members have access to on-site meeting rooms, boardrooms and a range of business services. Find one of our branches near you or contact us online for more information.