What is the 15-Minute City Concept?...

What is the 15-Minute City Concept? (French version available)

by Sarah Leung
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

What is a 15-Minute City?

The 15-minute city concept allows citizens to access their essential needs within a 15-minute walk. Many Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Edmonton, and Victoria, have implemented this concept into city development plans.

In 2021, Ottawa identified nine important necessities:

  • Bus stops
  • Childcare facilities
  • Grocery stores
  • Health services
  • LRT stations (light rail transit, such as subways)
  • Parks
  • Recreation facilities (such as community centres)
  • Retail stores
  • Schools

These are all places planned to be accessible within a 15-minute walk distance.

However, Ottawa also recognizes that these nine resources will not be evenly distributed across the region. High-access areas will ideally have seven to nine resources from that list, while low-access areas will unfortunately have one to three.

A 2022 study from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia also echoed this fact: 79% of Vancouver’s population have a grocery store within a 15-minute walking radius, but far fewer areas across the region would meet this requirement.

Like any concept, there are pros and cons. A 15-minute city sounds great on the surface, but it all depends on the plan’s execution by governments. City planners need to weigh the concept’s benefits against its potential negative consequences.

15-Minute City as a Positive Force

A 15-minute city’s opposite counterpart is urban sprawl. Where a 15-minute city seeks to make communities and resources closer, urban sprawl widens the distance between those.

Urban sprawl expands cities, meaning that as cities get larger, people need to travel longer distances. This also means that urban sprawl is a large contributor towards climate change: it is the largest factor behind greenhouse gas emissions in Ottawa.

The largest benefit of a 15-minute city is its potential to lessen impacts of climate change.

Fifteen-minute cities combat climate change by lessening dependency on electricity and gas. By reducing the amount of time and distance needed to reach essentials, more environmentally friendly transit options can be considered.

The key is to reduce the need for cars: car rides are usually seen as an option for longer, more inaccessible trips. By providing most of people’s everyday needs in a short distance, less people may want to use their cars for this purpose.

15-Minute City as a Negative Force

While the resistance against climate change impacts makes 15-minute cities attractive, the idea fails to consider many other important points. The core concept was modelled after European cities: many of its cities were built before the car was invented.

City planners cannot simply include solutions everywhere in cities without investing in neighbourhoods.

Many cities have inequality built into their original plans – think of many of Canada’s Chinatowns for example. The communities were built up by Chinese labourers, a group who were largely excluded by Canadian society.

The 15-minute city concept cannot accommodate all regions at its current state. City planners need to find ways to include underserviced areas without further worsening inequalities.

The 15-minute city concept presents itself as a great combatant towards climate change, but it should be discussed with caution. 15-minute cities should not be implemented without considering the potential impacts to minority groups and how current city structures need to be overhauled.



“15-Minute Neighbourhoods.” Ecology Ottawa, https://www.ecologyottawa.ca/15minute_neighbourhoods. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

Gomez, Michelle. “Vancouver Close to Achieving ‘15-Minute City’ Status, SFU Study Finds.” CBC News, 23 May 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-15-minute-city-1.6463022. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

Hochman, Sharee. “Organizing Accessibility and Intersectionality through 15-Minute Cities.” The Monitor, 1 June 2021, https://monitormag.ca/articles/organizing-accessibility-and-intersectionality-through-15-minute-cities. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

Mannie, Kathryn. “The Rise and Fall of Chinatown: The Hidden History of Displacement You Were Never Told.” Global News, 26 May 2022, https://globalnews.ca/news/8793341/chinatown-history-toronto-vancouver-montreal-canada/. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

O’Sullivan, Feargus. “Where the ‘15-Minute City’ Falls Short.” Bloomberg, 2 Mar. 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-02/the-downsides-of-a-15-minute-city. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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