Cycling for Everyone
Cycling for Everyone

15-Minute Cities: Three Dimensions of Creating People-Oriented Neighbourhoods

16 October 2023

On October 11th, the Dutch Cycling Embassy travelled to Antwerp for the seminar, Accessibility and Connectivity of the 15-minute City organized by ACUTE/UERA. This scientific seminar, open to both researchers and practitioners, aimed to advance knowledge in the realms of Urban Accessibility and Connectivity. Following the theme of ’15’, the event featured 15 concise presentations, each lasting 15 minutes. The day was dedicated to mutual learning, robust discussions, and the exploration of outcomes and predictions of the future.

Dutch experts Lennert Bonnier and Bas Govers from Goudappel presented as practitioners and shared their vision on a 15-minute city: “Three dimensions of creating people-oriented neighbourhoods”.


What do the three dimensions look like?


1st dimension: Clustering of (new) functions: the ‘living heart’ of the neighbourhood.

The ‘living heart’ focuses on the key ingredients that infuse neighbourhoods with vibrancy and meet the locals’ needs. This could be anything from shops, schools, café’s, green-facilities, to mobility services. It’s a bundle of services within a neighbourhood and focuses on creating synergy between them.

Why do neighbourhoods need a ‘living heart’? It’s as simple as:

  • There’s a local need for services
  • To create social interaction
  • To keep mobility local

2nd dimension: Redressing the car network: creating urban living areas and superblocks.

As the example of Oss shows: many ‘living hearts’are separated from their neighborhoods by 50 km/h roads. So redressing of those roads is needed. The second dimension therefor takes a look at the car network and how to create more living areas and superblocks. The Superblock Principle aims to repurpose urban space currently devoted to car traffic for multifarious uses like walking, cycling, greenery, and communal meeting spaces. It is a concept of urban traffic planning and intending to calm traffic in living areas.

Each superblock consists of 3×3 block arrangement:

However, not every city is the same and does not share an identical urban structure. Goudappel introduced the ‘Amsterdam Superblock principle’ where one-way direction lanes are utilized and therefore reduces the kilometres travelled by car within the neighbourhood. The inner parallel lanes are entirely off-limits to cars, resulting in substantial increase in public space.

3rd dimension: Connecting and improving routes for active modes.

The third dimension emphasizes using the new network inside the neighbourhood to improve the 15-minute city network. For example, focusing on the walking and cycling network within a new neighbourhood or superblock simultaneously function as a new link in the cycling and walking network at a larger urban scale. Prioritizing cyclist and pedestrian safety, convenience, comfort, and experience is paramount during network improvements. The goal is to make the space inviting and a secure place to be. Investing in attractive routes will increase the use. Research shows that cyclists and pedestrians find green, open spaces, and aesthetic quality of built environment attractive.

Take this as an example where a street in Utrecht was re-designed with a human-based approach:

The 15-minute presentation concluded with the Dutch experts highlighting the importance of an integrated approach across these dimensions to achieve success. The city planners, neighbourhood planners, and mobility planners need to work together. With a collaborated effort, there will be synergy between the dimensions and the outcome will reflect that.


A warm thank you extended to ACUTE/UERA for organizing a well-executed seminar, and to all the researchers and practitioners who shared their research and insights. The Dutch Cycling Embassy looks forward to future events and knowledge sharing.

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