The 15 minute city – moving towards a universal ‘mixed-use’ zoning future?

As the desire to transition to a more sustainable urban society, the Paris Mayor has set out an ambition of a ’15 minute city’ in the central area of capital’s 20 arrondissements. This will include all facilities which are typically expected to be needed by urban dwellers, to be found within a 15 minute walking (or cycling) distance of all residents. These are identified as: dwelling in dignity, working in proper conditions, provisions, well-being, education and leisure.

This is certainly an intertesting concept and one that Paris is well positioned to achieve. Given its high density (c. 21,000 population per square kilometre), it is a logical ambition to create an increasingly liveable city through the enhanced provision of services reached by convenient routes for walkers and cyclists.

The drive towards minimising private car travel whilst promoting walking and cycling is well underway, with the Vélib bike rental scheme a successful initiative and the expansion of the bicycle lane network. Further to this, space for cars in the central area is being reduced, whilst creating vehicle free zones, implementing landscaping and meaningful green, public urban spaces which promote integration are central to a new urban fabric.

This will also have implications for the land use planning system which will be required to accommodate these changes to achieve the desired 15 minute city. In an historic city centre which is unlikely to ‘go higher’, the promotion of mixed use zoning will be key to success. This is a confident step towards the ‘happy city’ (as coined by Charles Montgomery), where the reliance on private car travel is nullified and destinations and daily requirements are within convenient access.

Of course, the traditional areas of the ‘CBD’ and industrial areas which are well-established in cities worldwide may prevent complete achievement of a 15 minute city. However, these are confident intentions which rely on the promotion and flexibility of a mixed land use zoning across city perimeters which can be adopted by other urban areas and governments.