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“An aspirational thing” for Nanaimo to become a 15 minute city

As Nanaimo continues to expand bike lanes and try to make its downtown more accessible to those without cars, some wonder if it’ll become a ‘15 minute city.’

A 15 minute city is described as a place where residents can access all of their essential needs within a 15 minute radius, either by walking or by bike, from any point in the city.

“I think that’s quite an aspirational thing,” says Manager of Transportation Jamie Rose. “Nanaimo is a very long lineal city and has some very, very low density areas that are just single family dwellings. I don’t think that it’s realistic to think that the [whole] city will become sort of like a 15 minute city. I think there’s areas like our urban centers that have the opportunity to become like a 15 minute city and reduce people’s reliance on vehicle travel and reduce their travel times to their daily needs.”

Ever since the pandemic, conversations about implementing the accessibility plan has crossed much of North America, with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group referring to the plan in cities like  Milan, Madrid, Edinburgh, and Seattle.

Some speculate the adoption of the 15 minute city model will lead to ‘residential blocks.’

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“I think that there’s a lot of unfortunate speculation about things like that,” said Rose. “This is not something that would be sort of viewed as a constraint. It’s really about creating opportunity and reducing barriers for those that want to do something different. We historically have had and continue to have a very car dominant community and just by way of the [city’s] size and geography that’s evolved that way. So right now we’re really focusing on like I said, creating opportunities and reducing barriers for people who want to try and do something different. We have no sort of vision intent to restrict anything. We are actually looking at ways to optimize car movement as well.”

Current projects to improve bike-ability include the Albert Street bike connection, the connection between VIU and downtown, and Rose says they’re looking to create a stronger biking connection to the south side of the city via the ‘Haliburton corridor’.

“What we’re doing with the City Plan— talking about connected and complete communities is really creating opportunities for folks to do what they want to do and to do what makes them feel good,” says Rose. “It’s creating spaces for people to live, work and play the way they want to and reducing barriers if they want to walk and bike, or take transit.”

The ‘15 minute cities’ residential 2016 plan gained popularity in 2020 after Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo included a plan to implement it.

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