15-Minute City: Try It, You’ll Love It!

By Shlomo Maital  

  We live in Zichron Yaakov, an Israeli town of 27,000,  between Haifa and Tel Aviv.  My wife and I have lived here since 2016, after moving from Haifa, a city 10 times larger.  And we have come to love Zichron deeply.

    One reason?  It’s a 5-minute town.  We are literally 5 minutes from a supermarket, vet, doctor, HMO, barber, synagogue, pharmacy – everything!  Even on foot, nothing is more than 15 minutes away.   We spend zero time stuck in traffic, inhaling fumes.

      In today’s cities (and 56% of the world’s population now lives in cities), vast physical and mental energy is expanded in simply getting from A to B, in cars.  The devil himself has not invented a worse torture, than starting the day by spending an hour or two in a traffic snarl.

       The concept of a 15-minute city is growing and spreading.  What is it?  Simply, designing large neighborhoods so that everything is easily accessible and close by.  Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo builds her re-election campaign on this idea. 

       Here in Israel, the new government budget boosts spending on transportation infrastructure by 20%.  But it is doomed to failure. Why?  There is a race between rising imports of cars…more and more vehicles hitting the roads – and new highways.  Everywhere, including here, the cars win.  It is a modern Field of Bad Dreams —   build more highways, more lanes, and more cars will come to fill them and snarl them.

      Today, we are seeing “The Great Resignation” – millions of people all over the world who, post-pandemic, refuse to return to their old jobs.  They have seen the future, and it does not lie with commuting daily for hours.  Work from home can be a part of the 15 minute city – one of six key localized functions, living, working, commerce, healthcare, education, entertainment. 

    Kudos to French-Colombian innovator Carlos Moreno, who proposed the 15-minute city in 2016; Nikos Salingaros, on whose work Moreno built; and Hidalgo, a far-sighted Paris mayor.

     It is said that “all politics are local”.  Perhaps all life should be local.  Let us restore our neighborhoods.  And if you are up to a move – find a great one to move to.  We did.  It changed our lives.