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The 15-minute city may not work in much of North America

Segregated neighborhoods and car-centric cities may not adapt to the European model.

March 23, 2021 |

Courtesy Pixabay

The “15-minute city” where residents live within a short walk or bike ride of all their daily needs has gained favor during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some cities banning or reducing cars in designated areas.

This model, the norm in central areas of European cities that were largely settled before the advent of the automobile, faces difficulty in translation to North America. Cities on this side of the Atlantic were laid out with vehicular traffic in mind, creating widely settled areas with fewer tight-knit neighborhoods.

What’s more, economically disadvantaged areas of cities often lack amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other necessities. Without a concerted effort and significant investment, these urban areas cannot be easily transformed into the 15-minute city model.

Adding bike lanes and small parks will not reverse segregation that had been embedded into city planning for decades. While the 15-minute city may not be realistic for some North American cities, if these communities can transform from a 45-minute city to a 20-minute city, that would be a worthwhile achievement, some planners say.

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