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Discretely, Lisbon is developing a "15-minute city" project

At the Lisbon City Hall, there is a team working on the "15 minute city". The program is called Há Vida No Meu Bairro (There's Life in My Neighborhood) and the objective is to stimulate proximity, guaranteeing that all the essential urban functions are within walking distance: schools, green spaces, commerce, leisure, sports, health, and others.

Lisbon Photography For People

What if in our neighborhood, just a few minutes' walk from home, we have the shops and services we need - and also our school or workplace? And because we have everything nearby, we can avoid car trips and traffic jams? This is the concept of the "15-minute city" - a slogan launched by Professor Carlos Moreno and that, although it does not convey a new idea, it simplifies it in such a way that it has managed to capture the attention of experts, politicians and also civil society, becoming a buzzword.

The "15-minute city" is an idea of urbanism in which thinks the territories of cities and metropolitan areas around proximity, not mobility. The intent is to create multifunctional neighborhoods where we can meet most of our daily needs - living, working, consuming, accessing care, educating, and enjoying. In this way, we will be able to exchange car mobility for walking or cycling trips that take no more than 15 minutes - And if we need to go further, we can do it by public transport and within a 30 minute radius.

The "15-minute city is not about isolating neighborhoods, nor is it about restricting automobile use - contrary to what they claim some conspiracy theories that have been polluting the public debate. It has to do with thinking about cities in other ways, so that there are several small urban centers in each territory, where we don't need to use the car to fulfill our needs.

The concept being applied in Paris (illustration by Micaël, courtesy of Paris City Hall)

In Paris, Carlos Moreno is working as an advisor to the Paris City Council to help the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, transform the French capital into a city of neighborhoods; here, Carlos Moedas "imported" this idea through his election campaign. Although the "15-minute city" only marked the first few months of Moedas' campaign, the now mayor does not refer to this concept again. The "15-minute city" is the big theme of the next edition of the Citizens' Council; and discretely, the municipality's Urbanism division is working to put this philosophy of proximity and neighborhoods into practice in the Portuguese capital as well.

24 pilot projects

The program is called There's Life In My Neighborhood and is being developed by the Municipal Department of Urbanism, between two departments: Public Space and Urban Planning. According to information provided by the municipality to Lisboa Para Pessoas, the main objective is "shaping public space interventions to promote proximity pedestrian routes". The City of Lisbon intends "interventions in public space promote the comfort, convenience and safety of pedestrian routes within the neighborhoods, ensuring that all essential urban functions are at walking distance: schools, green spaces, commerce, leisure, sports, health, among others".

O There's Life In My Neighborhood will culminate, in a first phase, in the elaboration of 24 pilot projects, one in each of the city's 24 parishes, in conjunction with the respective parish councils. But before reaching this stage, it will be necessary to make a diagnosis of the proximity urban functions and pedestrian circulation conditions of the different neighborhoods in Lisbon, and public participation phases are also planned in order to involve residents, merchants and other local communities in the definition of the interventions to be carried out. The City Council and the parish councils will collaborate in the analysis of local problems and opportunities, in the definition of lines of action and in this articulation with the population.

Lisbon Photography For People

Through this initiative and in particular the pilot projects, the Urbanism division of the Lisbon Municipality intends to diversify the functions of the city's neighborhoods, filling the gaps that exist in some of them, where, for example, there is no proximity commerce, leisure or sports areas, or green spaces. Thus, the program aims to "strengthen the dynamics of proximity and diversity of supply, and ensure that all essential urban functions exist in the neighborhoods"but also "strengthen Lisbon's identity as a city of neighborhoods, with local communities of great social and cultural diversity". The following are also objectives of There's Life In My Neighborhood promoting active mobility, increasing safety and comfort in the city, and reducing inequalities in access to services and in the use of public space.

Like other initiatives of the Urbanism division, the There's Life In My Neighborhood follows a philosophy of co-construction, aligned with developing a city with people and for people - a commitment that the Urbanism division says it is following in other of its programs, such as 5 Valleys. "We want Lisbon to be a city that we are proud to leave to the next generations of Lisboners: a more human city, a city that promotes Proximity, Diversity and Balance. The future is built by valuing our unique identity and culture, which defines us, and which we must preserve and diversify. A culture that lives in the neighborhoods, in all the parishes".the autarchy understands.

Recovering the trade

One of the concrete projects that is being developed within the scope of the There's Life in My Neighborhood is about commerce in downtown Lisbon. "It is clear that there is a close relationship between the frequency of pedestrian travel, especially proximity travel, and the existence of vibrant street commerce. However, there are areas of the city with quite diverse characteristics"points out the municipality. The program team has already met with the Parish of Santa Maria Maiorwhich represents a considerable part of the historic center, and tells Lisboa Para Pessoas that it existed "total attunement" in relation to "need to create a true downtown neighborhood, recovering its very own identity while responding to the basic needs of the residents".

"This means, in particular, offering local commerce that is not only aimed at visitors to the city. We cannot give up a diversity of establishments, including grocery stores, cafes, bakeries, hairdressers, butchers..."he explains. In areas under great pressure from tourism, a desirable balance between housing and tourism supply is at stake. It becomes fundamental to guarantee diversity and balance, also promoting that type of traditional trade offer." Recent data published in this article point out that 20 stores were lost on Silver and Gold Streets alone to five hotels.

Lisbon Photography For People

Another area of the city where problems have already been identified is in the Lumiar Street, currently an axis of intense automobile and public transport traffic and that, despite having a neighborhood street character, has lousy sidewalks and where there is a potential for neighborhood life. According to the municipality, this is an area of the city where "inverse problem, that of a potential decay of street commerce, often associated with the degradation of the public space that we find in almost 'forgotten' areas of the city"and where a "public space intervention and the creation of inviting pedestrian paths can help bring more residents to commercial arteries, which, combined with a solid strategy to support the establishment and preservation of commercial establishments, can be decisive in revitalizing neighborhood commerce".

Discussing the "15-minute city

O next Citizens Councilan initiative of civic participation in the city of Lisbon, promoted by the City Council, which aims to involve citizens in decision making, can be a important moment for the development of the There's Life in My Neighborhood. After a first edition dedicated to climate change, held in May 2022, in this second edition the theme will be the "15 minute city".

For two days (March 25 and April 1), a group of 50 people will gather at the City Hall to debate the "15 minute city" and formulate proposals to present and discuss with the Mayor. Participation in this Citizens' Council has been drawn so that the panel of citizens reflects the diversity of the city in terms of gender, age, nationality, parish, professional status, and level of education. Unlike the first edition, in which citizens could register on the municipality's website, this time, invitations were sent to several addresses spread across the 24 parishes in order to reach a wider range of citizens.

The ideas resulting from this Citizens' Council can be used to improve programs such as There's Life In My Neighborhood and to validate some of the initiatives that the municipality even already has underway, prioritizing them in the calendars and budgets. One of the ideas of the first edition - that of a garden on every corner - is being worked on as part of the program Cooling Down The CityThe project, which consists of an intervention in 15 junctions in the Colonias neighborhood, in Arroios, with the planting of 70 trees and, according to an e-mail recently sent by the City Hall to the participants, already has a detailed project, an execution schedule and a budget, and the administrative procedures for contracting the work are being carried out. Still, many ideas came out of the first Council and the citizens who participated say that would like to to see greater agility and speed on the municipal side in the development of the projects.

Alvalade is the most 15 minute neighborhood

The work of Manuel Banza (GIF by Lisboa Para Pessoas)

In 2020, in the context of a pandemic, Lisbon resident and data scientist Manuel Banza developed an analysis for the city to understand in which parishes there are more services and local commerce. Of the 24 parishes, he selected the seven with the largest population and more spread out in the geographical space of the city - Alvalade, Arroios, Belém, Benfica, Campo de Ourique, Lumiar and Marvila. Banza considered the most central point in the area of each parish to define its "center" and from there he traced 15-minute radii on foot to find out which functions could be reached by walking. It looked at schools and universities, green parks, hospitals, supermarkets and markets, museums and other cultural spaces such as cinemas, theaters, and art galleries, urban gardens, and coworks.

Of the seven parishes analyzed, Alvalade was the one that appeared to be the most prepared for the "15-minute city" concept, having several schools and universities nearby, having four hospitals and clinics, four subway stations, already has a good coverage of segregated bike lanes, has several green spaces, and there are five coworking spaces within the parish. You can explore the map of Alvalade here:

Second, Manuel placed Arroios as "one of the parishes with the greatest potential" to adopt this concept of proximity, noting a large number of cultural spaces, several schools and universities nearby, several hospitals and clinics nearby and as being one of the parishes with more coworking spaces. However, he highlights a lack of green spaces, relying almost solely on Campo Mártires da Pátria and the grassy area of Alameda. In other parishes, he found several shortcomings, particularly in terms of health, green spaces and cultural facilities.

Manuel Banza's work is presented in the form of interactive maps. Below, you can find links to the maps of each parish:

Mário Rui André

Journalist and editor of Lisboa Para Pessoas, a local newspaper about Lisbon and the metropolitan area. I have 30 years living in the capital and 10 years of experience in media, having co-founded Shifter, an independent and reference magazine about technology. I studied advertising and marketing at the Escola Superior de Comunicação Social and, later, journalism and communication at the Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Coimbra. I write about Lisbon and about cities, mobility and urbanism in general. I follow a more human vision of the public space, and I am for citizenship and transparency on the part of governing bodies.View Author posts

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