Blog | 13 July 2021

Why Now is the Time to Develop 20 Minute Neighbourhoods

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we move and experience everyday life. One of the most fundamental changes relating to our mobility, both as individuals and as a community, revolves around the question of central vs local access; where before we would travel from city to city to work, explore and experience, during the pandemic we were suddenly confined to a very limited geographical area around where we live.

Much has been seen of the positive impact this has had on the environment through the reduction in carbon emissions, and while it has been an incredibly tough time for businesses and arts and culture organisations there has also been the silver lining of smaller businesses, galleries and other arts and culture venues gaining the awareness and custom of a local community. It has also meant we have had to spend less time travelling to where we need (rather than want) to go.

In other words, society has been inadvertently faced with the reality of what has become known as ’20 minute neighbourhoods’. In a nutshell, 20 minute neighbourhoods are places that connect us to each other and what we need, without the need for a car. In 20 minute neighbourhoods, an individual should be able to shop locally, experience local artscentres and libraries, receive health care and take their children to school during a 20 minute round trip – 10 minutes there and 10 minutes back.

To achieve this, campaigners believe we should find ways, through individual action as well through the lobbying of local government, to support and develop wide variety of amenities in areas where people reside. And while this perhaps most obviously conjures up images of the local corner shop as opposed to that large supermarket, the opportunities for, and impact of the arts, culture and creatives is equally as pronounced and important.

Artists and creators such as architects and digital designers have also been instrumental in helping visualise what the space around us, our 20 minute neighbourhoods, could look like. Over the past year videos and artists impressions of spaces across Scotland, the UK and the world, have been shared in the media and have highlighted a vision of places designed for people, not cars, and have allowed us to aspire to cleaner, greener and more sustainable neighbourhoods that offer us everything we need, right on our doorstep.

Find out more in this article by Sustrans – they are custodians of the National Cycle Network, a UK-wide network of traffic-free paths for everyone, connecting cities, towns and countryside, loved by the communities they serve – on what needs to exist in a 20 minute neighbourhood in order for it to make people healthier, happier and in many ways, more prosperous.

Sign up now for our Culture and Sustainability online panel with Edinburgh International Festival Artists, taking place Tue 24 August.

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