15 Minute Communities

What are they?  As the name suggests the idea is to have everything that you need to live your life available within 15 minutes of where you live.  Not 15 minutes by car, either: 15 minutes on foot.

Imagine being able to walk to the shops and have the full range of services available.  Imagine having the butcher, the baker, candlestick-maker, not to mention the doctor, dentist, post-office, banks, schools and parks right on your doorstep.  What if your workplace could also be within a 15 minute walk or cycle-commute.

Cities began, in the UK, with work and home being in close proximity.  The industrial revolution had the workers housed close to the factories because there were no cars or public transport.  It soon became clear that this wasn’t too healthy for workers due to pollution from the factories. So cities evolved and, with the advent of public transport, people moved away from their places of work to suburbs with more space and cleaner air. This suburbanisation created a need for cars, buses and trains for people to get to work.

Recently, cities have changed again. Industry has been shunted to the outskirts of our towns and new neighbourhoods are being built on the brownfield sites near the centre.  Think about all the change that has happened in Leeds over the last 20 years alone!

However the infrastructure of extensive road networks still carves up the city.

But what if the roads could be repurposed?  What if the cars could magically disappear?  Narrow roads, wider footpaths, beautiful grass verges, enjoyable cycle paths……..

If you need a model to visualise this, then think about Amsterdam. In Amsterdam 10,000 city centre car parking spaces have been removed over the last few years.  The result has been more open space for people to walk and cycle in, less air pollution and more community engagement (people have got to know their neighbours better)!  Those empty car parking spaces are now bike parking, footpaths and children’s play areas. It sounds good, doesn’t it!

It’s healthier too. All that walking is good for the heart.  That cleaner air is good for the lungs.  To my mind, being outside is good for the soul, too.  I always feel better for it, just looking up at the sky, not being hemmed in by the four walls of the office.  Antony’s cycle to work, even when it meant getting up early, always put him in the right frame of mind for the day ahead.  The ride home always meant that he left work behind and never brought it home.

In Headingley we have the butcher, the baker, the library, the schools, the art shopthe grocer, the barbers, the plant shop, the cafes, the charity shops, the community hub, the co-working spaces, the DIY shop, the clothes shop the pubs, restaurants and more. We are a mini-15 minute community!

That’s all well and good I hear you say, but what does it have to do with flowers? Flowers bring beauty to look at in our fields and gardens. Flowers also attract bees and birds.  I love listening to the birds sing in the garden. Their songs now wake me up in the lighter mornings and the children watch the smaller birds play and try to capture their pictures.

However the bees that our flowers support and encourage are even more vital than this. Bees pollinate our food crops, provide food (honey and royal jelly) and contribute to our medicines (beeswax and propolis).  Bees help our farmers and our local food supply chain, meaning that our flowers contribute to the beauty in your home and the biodiversity of your environment.

Thank goodness flowers make us happy, are pretty AND they are practical too!

If you'd like to know more, have a look at these links:

BBC - How '15 minute cities' will change the way we socialise.

Financial Times - Welcome to the 15 minute city

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