The second session of the cycle of Urban Time Policies co-organized by Barcelona Time Use Initiative (BTUI) and Diplocat has explored three pioneering initiatives designed to promote a territory of proximity and improve the quality of life of people living in urban areas. On this occasion, it has had the participation of the City Council of Paris, Milan and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area.
The idea of the 15-minute city is not new but has gained recent notoriety because of two current crises: the climate one and the one caused by COVID-19.
As Eva Garcia, a senior researcher in CIDOB’s Global Cities program, commented, the 15-minute city shows us that “We are facing a paradigm shift both in the city model and our lifestyle.” This idea is not only a reaction to the emergencies arising from the pandemic, but it is a paradigm that is here to stay.
The 3 key pillars of these cities of 15 minutes or proximity are: sustainable mobility to reduce the carbon footprint, decentralization to ensure universal access to basic services and strengthening of the citizens relationships within the neighbourhood.
The first city to share its experience was Paris, a pioneer of the 15-minute city, that has been a priority for Mayor Anne Hidalgo. During the session, Alexiane Zelinsky, advisor to the Ministry of Mobility, Public Space and Olympic Games of the City of Paris, said that “we want a more resilient city, more united and with zero pollution and therefore, we want to move from a city of cars to a city of bicycles and pedestrians”. The project to open school spaces and transform them into a multi-purpose space is an example of how they are applying this concept.
As a pioneering city, Paris has already identified the main challenges for the future to ensure the long-term implementation of the city of 15 minutes: first, the revitalization of new urban spaces that have been created where there were parking lots or cars. Second, the green areas to ensure that all citizens have urban green spaces next to home and lastly, and especially relevant, revitalizing the local economy.
Milan is also committed to a change of city model towards one that favours proximity. Actions related to tactical urbanism, such pacification of streets and, in short, incorporating the time dimension in urban planning, through chrono-urbanism are meant to achieve it. The pandemic for them has acted as an accelerator of previous processes, allowing unprecedented decisions and new mechanisms to implement actions, such as the table of collaboration between municipalities and central government. This table took the decision to desynchronize the hours of entry and exit of public services of the city (schools, universities, etc.) to facilitate less crowding in public transport.
As explained by Francesca Zajczyk, delegate consultant for the Times of the City in the Milan Municipality, one of the projects under the Milan 2020 adaptation strategy, is to decentralize workspaces and bring them closer to the neighbourhood, an idea halfway between working form home and face-to-face work, what they call “near-working”. It consists of radically rethinking physical workplaces, which are no longer fixed and concentrated but dynamic and decentralized, moving to a polycentric model that encourages work-life balance, revitalizes neighbourhoods, and reduces mobility.
From the Mobility Area, Transport and Sustainability of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, Mariona Conill, has explained that the AMB works with municipalities with the idea of the 15-minute city and takes it to the metropolitan level with the idea of the 45-minute area. She also stressed the “key importance of coordinating metropolitan areas and municipalities to facilitate proximity models.”
“A networked workspace at European level could play a key role in driving the 15-minute city.”
Alexis Serra, director of the Office for Timetable Reform of the Generalitat de Catalunya, has stated that time policies, such as the 15-minute city, are a guarantee of people’s well-being, equality and efficiency and has claimed, like the other speakers, the importance of strengthening alliances and networks of time policies and of formally sharing good practices and experiences at the international level.
The conclusions of these debates will be presented as part of Time Use Week, on October 26, and the need to re-promote the network of cities for time use will be discussed.