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A city on your doorstep

25 September, 2020

You can do a lot in fifteen minutes. Complete a high-intensity workout, take in a life-changing TED Talk or even cook a full meal (but only if you’re Jamie Oliver).

But imagine if fifteen minutes was all it took to access all the amenities your city had to offer. That’s the vision presented by the newly-elected Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo: one in which all urban necessities – from shops and healthcare to school and workplaces – are just a quarter hour journey away.

It’s an appealing prospect. Most people say around fifteen minutes is their ideal commute length: enough to draw boundaries between home and work, but not to eat into sleep or leisure time. Add to that reduced numbers of cars in cities, lower pollution levels and a strengthened sense of community from sharing facilities and spaces with your neighbours, and surely you’ve got all the ingredients for a cracking fifteen-minute meal?

But there’s a flipside. As Covid-19 has caused many people’s social circles to contract to our surrounding streets and immediate neighbours, researchers noticed that increased ‘bonding’ between homogenous groups has been counterbalanced by diminished ‘bridging’ between more diverse communities. If we limit our interactions to those within a fifteen-minute radius, do we risk building social networks more defined by shared house prices than shared interests? And miss out on the creativity and inspiration that comes from the shared buzz of a thriving city centre?

Much like a fifteen-minute sausage gnocchi recipe, we’re yet to be convinced that the fifteen-minute city – so appealing in theory – is a recipe for success.

By Sarah Howden

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