by Jennie Moore, Director, Institute Sustainability at British Columbia Institute of Technology and Director, Centre for Ecocities at BCIT
Paris, the capital city of France, has long been revered for its dense livability. In 2014, Anne Hidalgo was elected as the City’s Mayor. Since coming to office, she has embarked on a program to reduce car dependency by expanding bicycle infrastructure, removing parking stalls, and converting a motor-way into a riverside park along the banks of the River Seine that traverses through the city.
These actions are now culminating in a new initiative to transform Paris into a 15-minute city that enables people to access services including shopping, public transportation, and leisure activities in the immediate vicinity where they live. Touted as “an idea pioneered by Carlos Moreno, a professor of innovation at the Sorbonne University in Paris and advisor to the mayor” (Reguly, 2020), many will recognize the 15-minute city as the foundational ecocity principle of “access by proximity.” Access by proximity is a land-use strategy that has informed the development of compact, mixed-use neighborhoods and cities around the world for decades.
Access by proximity is the first Ecocity Standard in the Urban Design pillar for the very reason that it informs the entire approach to building car-free cities. When people are able to meet their needs without having to rely on a car for driving long-distances or spending time stuck in traffic, their quality of life improves along with their personal productivity. Governments save money on building and maintaining roads, freeing resources to invest in high-frequency public transportation infrastructure. Businesses also benefit from higher “foot-traffic.”
Between 1999 and 2016, Paris has increased its mode-share for walking, cycling, and transit from 56% to 65% (Euklidiadas, 2020). Heralding the 15-minute city as its new goal should enable the city to go farther, potentially achieving an ecocity level 1 benchmark of 86%.
Euklidiadas, M. Martinez. 2020. Paris wants to become a “15-minute city.” Tomorrow Mag, Governance and Finance. May 18, 2020. Available online: https://www.smartcitylab.com/blog/governance-finance/paris-15-minute-city/ (Accessed November 25, 2020).
Reguly, Eric. 2020. Building the 15-Minute City. The Globe and Mail, Future of Cities. November 14, 2020 p. A8.