What is a 15-minute city?
The 15-minute city framework was masterminded by French-Colombian urban planner, Carlos Moreno, whose idea means that anything you need to live an urban life is a 15-minute walk or bike ride away, eliminating the reliance on cars or public transport.
It is a revolutionary, environmentally friendly, and inclusive way to rethink the planning of a city or town, giving each neighbourhood access to work, school, healthcare, retail, hospitality and leisure facilities, green spaces, museums and more, on their doorstep.
Following multiple lockdowns, there has been a growing sense of appreciation for locality in the world, with people spending more time walking around their neighbourhoods and preferring to work from home or make shorter commutes. And during the cost-of-living crisis, people have been more conscious about the ever-increasing prices of fuel and public transport.
With more people working remotely, at least a few days a week, there is room for the addition of more localised, essential services and amenities, that would otherwise be concentrated in a central location. This would give those living on the outskirts access to these essentials and to a greater number of opportunities.
What impact could 15-minute cities have on businesses?
A recent research by the International Workplace Group (IWG) discovered that 83% of workers around the world would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. This indicates people are less willing to commute and prefer shorter journeys to work. As a result, having an office space just 15 minutes’ walk or bike ride away would be much preferred by professionals.
Shorter commutes often lead to improved job satisfaction, work-life balance and wellbeing, with much less time spent on stressful travel. When provided with the flexibility to work remotely or from a local office, rather than commuting to a head office in a city-centre location, workers will be more tempted to stay with the business, or actively seek work there.
People are now much more aware of the social value of the companies they work for, and their own carbon footprints, and will take into account the length, expense and environmental impact of a longer commute when considering moving roles.
The introduction of ‘15-minute cities’ could see the expansion of businesses into less-expensive local areas, reducing overhead costs and extending access to the national talent pool. Professionals across the country will have more opportunities closer to home, without the need to move centrally or commute. Then, the local talent pool will become richer, and businesses won’t have to cast such a wide net to search for their next employee.
How close is the reality of ‘15-minute cities’ in the Middle East?
The concept of 15-minute cities is still in the early stages of development in the Middle East, and progress varies across the region. However, several cities are making notable strides towards achieving this vision. Dubai, for example, has been actively investing in creating walkable neighborhoods and reducing car dependency. The city has introduced pedestrian-friendly initiatives, expanded public transportation options, and implemented urban planning strategies that prioritize mixed-use development. Similarly, Abu Dhabi has been focusing on creating sustainable and integrated communities, with the aim of providing residents with easy access to amenities and services within a short distance.
Other cities in the region, such as Doha in Qatar and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, have also recognized the importance of walkability and are incorporating pedestrian-friendly elements into their urban planning efforts. While challenges such as extreme climates and existing car-centric infrastructure remain, the Middle East is gradually moving towards the reality of 15-minute cities through a combination of urban planning initiatives, policy changes, and investments in sustainable transportation systems.
Overall, the concept of a ‘15-minute city’ could revolutionise the way we live, work, and hire, by reducing commute times, making it easier to access talent and opportunities, and to work hybridly. As a result, it could also improve job satisfaction, wellbeing and the general quality of life for you and your employees.
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