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Our cities are not made of rubber. The space we live in is limited for various reasons. That’s why it’s a shame that so much space in cities is taken up by infrastructure designed for cars. Concepts such as 15-minute cities prove that we don’t need cars to be happy at all.

Proximity to nature, studies show, has a salutary effect on our health. It has a positive effect on diseases such as depression, neuroses and other disorders. Access to greenery also improves sleep, reduces stress, increases happiness levels and promotes positive social interactions.

As researchers have proven, proximity to green spaces also promotes more frequent sports, which translates into physical health benefits. Other studies, in turn, show that even just looking at nature can have positive effects on a person.

There’s just one snag. In an era of increasing numbers of cars in cities, there is less and less space left for greenery. So it’s not hard to conclude that happy cities, where people live long and healthy lives, are cities with as few cars and as much greenery as possible.

Already has almost 650 cars for every 1,000 people in the country, and the total number of cars has exceeded 30 million. Polish cities developed with cars in mind, cars are still chosen as a means of transportation for reasons of prestige and convenience.

However, cities subordinated to cars have fundamental disadvantages: pollution and traffic jams. According to Piotr Siergiej, spokesman for the Polish Smog Alarm, in an interview with Green Interia, car exhaust is responsible for about 12 percent of all air pollution in Poland. It adversely affects not only physical health, but can also have an impact on the higher incidence of mental disorders.

Roads at the expense of greenery

Another problem with today’s cities is that cars take up space from residents. Due to the increasing number of cars, traffic jams are more frequent, leading to roadways being widened or new roads being built. By catering to the needs of motorists, valuable green spaces are lost.

Roads at the expense of greenery

However, traffic jams, overcrowded parking lots, air pollution and the taking over of space by cars can be stopped. One way is to change the mode of transportation from cars to bicycles. – Bicycles should be the direction of mobility development for a simple reason. We have a growing space deficit problem in city centers. We can’t fit all the cars there, there are no parking spaces, and we have traffic jams instead,.

The limited urban space is used most economically precisely by bicycles and public transportation. The problem, however, is that public transportation is sometimes unreliable. In turn, riding a bicycle or bus to a store or pharmacy that is more than a ten-minute drive away is tiring and inconvenient.

The 15-minute city – what is it?

The answer to the city’s space and transportation problems may lie in the concept of so-called “15-minute cities,” which could transform our neighborhoods and neighborhoods. Elements of this approach are already being successfully implemented, for example, in Paris, Cagliari, Portland and Bogota. Quite a few of them have been applied as a temporary solution to pandemic-related urban problems.

What is a 15-minute city? A 15-minute city is one in which all of our daily needs are in close proximity – within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. This stands in opposition to what urban planners have created in cities up to now – apartments and houses were supposed to be separate zones, away from commerce, industry and entertainment.

The 15-minute cities should guarantee residents’ proximity to six fundamental functions, which include:

  • housing,
  • work,
  • shopping,
  • health care,
  • education,
  • entertainment.

The concept further emphasizes education and as much urban greenery as possible, expanding the biodiversity of the space and helping to combat invasive species. Neighborhoods where the most important services and other functions are available within a 15-minute walk or bike ride have a positive impact on physical and mental health and are simply better lived in.

An additional advantage of 15-minute cities is also inclusiveness. They also accommodate the elderly and people with disabilities, not just the wealthy, healthy and privileged.