15-Minute Cities and How to Keep Our Planet Sustainable

We enter another year where the students of Ion Creanga National College are participating in the international program “Young Reporters of the Environment” (YRE), organized by the Carpato-Danubian Center of Geoecology. The purpose of this project is to investigate the problems found in the surrounding environment, and to find viable and sustainable solutions. Our students have shown initiative: Niculescu Vlad in 12th grade wrote the article “15 minute cities”, while the students Popescu Bianca Stefania Antonia, Cocor Miruna Alexia, Roman Adelina Maria from 9th grade realized an investigative video on the “Understing Pesticide Impact ” theme under the supervision of Nituleac Madalina, our biology teacher.

Name of author: Niculescu Vlad
Age: 17
Name of school: Colegiul Național ,,Ion Creangă”
Country, county, city: Romanja, Bucharest, Sector 4
Coording teacher: Mădălina Nițuleac

15-Minute Cities and How to Keep Our Planet Sustainable

The urban environment started to evolve in a direction which affects our lifestyle. Big capital cities, such as London, Paris or Bucharest are slowly becoming places where breathing clean and fresh air is less and less accessible.

Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, is in Top 10 most crowded cities of the European Union and at the same time one of the most polluted place to live in the EU. Then, the question that one may ask is: “Is there really a correlation between packed cities and pollution?”.

One of the possible answers to this question will then be the concept of 15-minute cities.

How did the concept come into sight?

Even though cities were historically conceived around trade centres, upon the emergence of personal means of transport the suburbs developed and the commuting time elongated. The concept of a ,,15-minute city” means that one person has all the essential services within 15 minutes of walking, cycling or another method of active transportation. It originated in 2016, with Sorbonne professor Carlos Moreno, but gained significantly more traction in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started.

Why do we need to rebuild our cities?

As it was previously discussed, pollution and low-quality air are becoming a more important issue to solve faster than we may have ever thought. The main sources of pollution are district heating systems and traffic jams. While replacing the traditional heating systems with renewable energy solutions, the other pollution factor can easily be removed by improving the public transport and encouraging people to use it instead of their own automobiles. Another strategy, which can be implemented concurrently with an improved public transport system, is creating a 15-minute city. People will not need to commute anymore for their essential needs, resulting, as it was explained in the preceding paragraphs, in a higher air quality.

Picture no. 1: Bratislava city center
Picture no. 1: Bratislava city center

Even though Bratislava is not considered to be a 15-minute city, it is a very good example of a walkable city, especially in the center.

How can we do that?

The city of Utrecht, located in the Netherlands is one of the best examples of a 15-minute city. By investing in cycling paths, pedestrian-friendly streets and efficient public transport, Utrecht become one of the least polluted cities with an enhanced life quality. The urban planning in the area transformed also the landscape. For example, numerous green spaces appeared within the city emphasizing good life quality and environmental esponsibility. New urban environments also help reaching some of the 17 sustainable Development Goals, such as:

  1. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  2. Sustainable cities and communities
  3. Climate action

To sum up, embracing the concept of 15-minute cities represents crucial step for a higher life quality and it should be a main goal for all city halls in the European Union.

  • This document contains information that I have personally gathered from thorough investigation of the subject matter, and the image is taken by me.

  • Îmi exprim acordul ca CCDG și FEE să utilizeze acest material în scopuri
    educaționale în publicații și promovarea pe paginile de Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc. ale programului YRE/Litter Less.

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