The idea of a 20-minute city that we use to build Nesto is a structural concept for urban areas with two aims. Sustainability and a better-quality life for everyone without differences. How to reach all this in 20 minutes?
20 minutes and no more
The idea of a 20-minute city is based on the concept that inhabitants of cities should not spend more than 20 minutes travelling to satisfy their basic needs. And they should be able to do it on foot or by bike. Instead of cities divided into residential zones, entertainment zones and work zones, they should be organised into districts that can fulfil all three functions.
This idea was introduced in 2016 by the French-Columbian university professor Carlos Moreno. It has been adopted by many urban planners and local politicians use it in their election campaigns. The main theme is to decrease the burden of an insane number of cars in the streets and create an urban environment which is built around people and not traffic lights and parking fees.
A (not so) new concept
Not many people realize that we had had 20-minute cities long before Professor Moreno was even born. In fact, urban areas were organised into 20-minute cities naturally by themselves. People simply satisfied their basic needs only in the area that they could reach on foot.
The boom of car transport shortened the distances and made the cities “smaller”. After the introduction of cars, people started to satisfy their basic needs and wishes also outside their home location, usually in the centre of their own city, or even in a different city altogether.
This travelling for needs deformed the natural 20-minute structure of cities, which we are trying to rediscover and repair. Because of this deformation, the gap between city inhabitants widened. Only the richest people could afford to live in the centres where all services satisfying our needs are concentrated. Because of the high residential prices, the poorer population was pushed to the peripheries without any amenities, only suitable to overnight in. They had to commute to satisfy their other needs.
And then came COVID
The pandemic turned everything upside down. For many people, commuting to work, shops or for entertainment lost its meaning. People started to ask themselves more often why they should spend one hour commuting to work just to work at a computer they bring along from home. They also started to ask why they have to commute to go shopping or for education, healthcare or culture.
Questions that came with the pandemic are a great opportunity to metaphorically demolish our cities and rebuild them. Professor Moreno claims that besides benefits for our planet, 20-minute cities would also mean narrowing the gap between inhabitants and revitalising neglected urban areas.
A sports disco-hall
Sustainability and closing the gap sound nice. But how to ensure all functions for inhabitants even in parts of the city that weren’t built for them at all? Professor Moreno sees the way forward in more efficient use of the existing buildings.
For instance, he would turn empty buildings into co-working spaces, where the locals would “commute to work”. And schools, empty during the weekend, could serve as a space for cultural or sports events so that we don’t have to travel to a concert to the other side of the city. In the evenings, libraries could turn into language schools, sports halls into discos, and cafés into film clubs.
20-Minute cities in practice
This concept was popularised the most probably by the Mayor of Paris and French presidential candidate Anne Hidalgo, who, during her campaign in 2020, sat on a bike and introduced the vision of a 20-minute Paris. The basic principles of the 20-minute city are also included in the Melbourne planning strategy, although the Australians adapted the concept to 20-minute neighbourhoods. Other cities also have 20-or-more-minute plans, including Barcelona, Detroit, London and Rotterdam. It is a matter of time (probably more than 20 minutes) until the same thinking spreads to smaller towns across the world. And it may be closer than you think.
Nesto was planned as a 20-minute neighbourhood before the concept became modern. We want to decrease the carbon footprint of Nesto’s inhabitants in the most natural and simple way. If you can walk to work, school, kindergarten, playgrounds, sports grounds, leisure spots and healthcare facilities within 20 minutes, there is no reason to use a car. We want to become the first neighbourhood in Bratislava and Slovakia that will not force its inhabitants to leave the area at each opportunity (or need).