The 15-minute city – between ideal and real

The 15-minute city is becoming a common term in urban planning circles, but also in political ones. A recent example is Paris, where „15-minute city” was one of the slogans of Mayor Anne Hidalgo in the re-election campaign. She then promised an ecological transformation of Paris, in which citizens depend as little as possible on their personal car.

The definitions of the 15-minute city vary depending on several parameters, including the modes of transport included in this type of urban planning. This outlines the need for the term to be clarified by urban planners, in order not to end up being used only as a political slogan.

According to analysis from Public Square, a CNU (Congress for the New Urbanism) publication, the 15-minute city can be defined as an ideal geography in which most human needs and desires can be met at a travel distance of 15 minutes. While cars can be part of the city for 15 minutes, they cannot determine its size or urban form.

Instead, the 15-minute city is defined by its ability to provide access to all human needs by walking or cycling for a quarter of an hour or less.

Most urban areas built before the proliferation of cars have the structure of a 15-minute city from the start – so achieving the goal can be relatively easy, depending on how much the urban fabric has changed over time. For more recently built cities and suburban areas, the task will be more difficult.

According to Public Square, when an urban area reaches the city’s 15-minute goal through organic evolution or legal stimulation, there are several positive implications:

Implications and feasibility

  • A 15-minute city is socio-economically fair – those without a car could easily access all points of interest
  • The need to use personal and/ or public transport is minimized – therefore, reducing fuel requirements mitigates global warming
  • Human-powered transport is promoted, which improves health, well-being and is better for the environment
  • Convenient location of services, accessible in many ways, saves time and improves the life quality


The 15-minute city is an elusive ideal, which depends on:

  • List of needs and wants to be provided within the neighborhood (for example, from an elementary school or clinic to a university or hospital)
  • Means of transport, which will determine the size of the neighborhood
  • What is supposed to be the average housing density, which determines the population in the neighborhood able to support services
  • There will certainly be barriers in certain areas, such as industrial sites with inactive facades, large schoolyards, etc.
  • Public transport services: The transit service is one of the human needs that should be met in the city for 15 minutes, but its use to define the concept presents serious difficulties. How far a person can get in 15 minutes using transportation depends on too many variables. Walking and cycling do not depend on these variables and are essentially door to door. Although public transportation needs to be promoted in the 15-minute city, its introduction in the 15-minute city definition may introduce a weakness in concept, according to the Public Square analysis.

Here you can consult the analysis performed by Public Square.