Perceived 15-minute city: Exploring the emotional and temporal dimensions of walking environments


  • Lisa Marie Brunner Norwegian University of Science and Technology


15-minute city, human scale, walking, experiences, time perception




The 15-minute city is an urban planning concept that envisions neighbourhoods where residents can access most of their daily needs, such as work, shopping and leisure activities, within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their homes (Moreno et al., 2021). Dense, socially connected and functionally mixed neighbourhoods are key aspects of 15-minute cities, supporting human-scale urban design and encouraging active transportation (Khavarian-Garmsir et al., 2023). Based on the idea of chrono-urbanism, the 15-minute city concept considers proximity in terms of both time and space, focusing on distances and the time it takes to reach daily destinations (Pozoukidou & Chatziyiannaki, 2021). Research has therefore focused on proposing 15-minute neighbourhoods based on calculations of road and street network distances.

However, distance-based accessibility analysis can only reflect the pedestrian's perspective of the street-level environment to a limited extent. The amount of stimulation and the quality of the perceived environment play an important role in shaping the overall walking experience and, consequently, the perception of time and distance (Gehl, 2010; Hillnhütter, 2021). In particular, the concept does not take into account the street-level characteristics of the urban environment and how pedestrians experience it. Walking for fifteen minutes in a boring and unpleasant environment will reflect a different experience of time and distance than walking for fifteen minutes in an interesting and pleasant environment. While the former may be perceived as long and tiring, the latter may be perceived as short and enjoyable. Acceptable walking distances to everyday places may, therefore, depend not only on the actual distance but also on the character of the walking environment and its effect on the pedestrian's emotional and temporal experience of walking.

Based on findings from an interdisciplinary study of pedestrians' experience of emotion and time, this paper discusses the concept of the 15-minute city from the pedestrian's perspective and questions the meaning of '15 minutes'. We argue that in order to address the principle of human design in 15-minute cities, the concept should take into account the actual characteristics of the streetscape and how pedestrians and cyclists perceive their environment during their journey. In a controlled experiment (n = 51), we investigated how different walking environments influence levels of brain activation (through functional near-infrared spectroscopy), emotional experiences and time perception. We found that urban environments with lower walking quality led to higher levels of brain activation, more stressful and unpleasant emotional experiences, and extended time experiences compared to environments with higher walking quality. Given the nature of neuroscientific and psychological experiments, the results are limited to a small number of participants. However, in the context of wider research, the findings are relevant to understanding the successful implementation of the 15-minute city concept. Further research is needed on how the human scale of the built environment can be considered in the research and practice of the 15-minute city.


Gehl, J. (2010). Cities for People. Island Press.

Hillnhütter, H. (2021). Stimulating Urban Walking Environments ; Can we Measure the Effect? Environment and Planning. B: Urban Analytics and City Science.

Khavarian-Garmsir, A. R., Sharifi, A., Hajian Hossein Abadi, M., & Moradi, Z. (2023). From Garden City to 15-Minute City: A Historical Perspective and Critical Assessment. Land, 12(2), 512.

Moreno, C., Allam, Z., Chabaud, D., Gall, C., & Pratlong, F. (2021). Introducing the “15-Minute City”: Sustainability, Resilience and Place Identity in Future Post-Pandemic Cities. Smart Cities, 4(1), 93–111.

Pozoukidou, G., & Chatziyiannaki, Z. (2021). 15-Minute City: Decomposing the New Urban Planning Eutopia. Sustainability, 13(2), 928.