The concept of the 20-minute neighborhood is not new. In fact, the notion is based on how cities were designed for centuries before the advent of the automobile. Essentially the idea is that a majority of people’s day-to-day needs can be reached on foot, by bike, or transit in roughly 20-minutes. Judging distance by an amount of time is more of a way to associate with the distances as people of varying ages and abilities will walk or bike at varying speeds. What needs to be grasped is that reducing the need to drive a single occupancy vehicle for a majority of the trips a person takes in any given day means that these “20-minute neighborhoods” are more vibrant, healthier, cleaner, and resilient places that create community.
Healthier because people use active transportation such as walking and cycling to get around on a daily basis reducing obesity and other health related issues to sedentary lifestyles. Cleaner by reductions in pollution from fewer vehicle miles traveled. The 20-minute neighborhood goal creates more resilient neighborhoods by providing more things people need locally which supports more small businesses that keep more dollars in the local economy. Access to local goods and services is more important than ever as COVID-19 exposed that lack of local sources of daily needs from toilet paper and healthy staple foods to access to healthcare facilities and testing sites.
20-minute neighborhoods are places that have diverse housing options and access to safe cycling routes and public transport, local health facilities, parks, shops and other local infrastructure. Some places are much closer to this goal than others. Cities that were developed centuries before the automobile came on the scene, such as Paris, already have many of the amenities to meet the goal. For a place like Paris, the goal is to identify where gaps exist and fill them in. More autocentric cities such as Louisville have only a few nodes that can come close to the goal. Determining where those are and what else is needed will improve the quality of life for people in those neighborhoods, but how do we ensure equity across the city and offer access to amenities to as many places across the city as possible? Utilizing the 20-minute neighborhood as a framework, we can see parts of town that may not have the amenities but the bones to build on. It is reasonable to expect that the older parts of Louisville will be more attainable as the street networks and built environment lend themselves to more walkable neighborhoods. Building up capacities in neighborhoods across the city to build from within will be important in generating wealth in the neighborhoods and staving off gentrification, as more walkable neighborhoods have proven to be more sought after real estate. This doesn’t mean that lower socioeconomic neighborhoods shouldn't have access to the better quality of life offered by walkable, vibrant neighborhoods.