Expired: Is time up on the 20min dream?

Updated: Jun 17



By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place


On 25 August at the Future of Place Summit we dive deep on the 20min neighbourhood agenda, as we gather a panel of leading practitioners, policy makers and academics to perform a post mortem on the current state of play.


Join us for a final rigorous debate on the role of technology and data in helping realise the illusive planning dream of the 20min city.


Part debate, part dialogue. And then at five (pm) the soap box comes out and the discussion continues over networking drinks as the audience is invited to take over the discussion.


So, in the lead up to this session at the Future of Place Summit, we share some notes we have on file to again prompt our thinking.


"Portland’s Climate Action Plan sets an objective for 2030 calling for vibrant neighborhoods in which 90% of Portland residents can easily walk or bicycle to meet all basic daily, non-work needs."

First and foremost, lets not forget that the 20min neighbourhood originates from Portland OR in the USA (circa 2010), and that at its core is/was about 'walkable' access to 'neighbourhood' services and amenities.


Still in the US, the Congress for New Urbanism published a nice piece earlier this year providing a short refresher on the concept, but also highlighting some notable recent mentions of the concept by political leaders in their re-election campaigns.


Here in Australia it's hard to go past the leadership work of the Victorian government with their 20 Minute Neighbouhood program. And we look forward to hearing more from James Mant at the Future of Place Summit who has been leading this effort.


In 'The Pulse of Greater Sydney' the Greater Sydney Commission advances the 30min city concept, stating "This indicator measures the proportion of residents able to reach their nearest metropolitan centre/cluster, strategic or large local centre using public transport and/or walking within 30 minutes."


But does this potentially stretch the idea from where its roots lie, deep within the 200x200 feet grid in Portland, that has supported strategic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance wellbeing, such as the Portland 'bike economy' (see exhibit A, B and C for examples)?


Iain White from the University of Waikato last year pitched the 20min city as an economic recovery tool for a post-COVID Hamilton in New Zealand, and when we spoke to him last year he broke down and demystified some of the urban myths around the concept. He also highlighted the problems with traditional 'build it back' approaches in his proposition that the 20min city was 'shovel-ready'.


Just a few months ago Future of Place Advisory Board Chair and Neighbourlytics Co-founder Lucinda Hartley reminded us of the importance of creating neighbourhoods with hyper-proximity to services and amenities, and how this is expected to be a focus for municipalities post-COVID.


With those few notes, and the emerging campaign for Australian workers to "get back into the office and the CBD", this certainly sets the scene for a lively discussion on August 25!

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