Some two million people in the Netherlands have to travel an average of over four kilometres to get to their pharmacy, train station, school or another amenity, an analysis of figures published earlier by statistics agency CBS has shown.
That means one in nine people fall outside the scope of the “15-minute city”, in which important amenities are reachable without the use of a car. This idea was promoted by the World Economic Forum following the Covid lockdown.
Family doctors and supermarkets in all of the local councils the CBS looked at are within walking or cycling distance. In some sixty local councils out of 342, all nine amenities, from doctors and pharmacies to leisure facilities and shops, are within a four kilometre distance.
In others, like Alphen-Chaam, which is near the border with Belgium and has a population of 10,000, the bar is within walking or cycling distance but to get to the nearest pharmacy people have to travel three times the distance, the analysis showed.
Much larger local councils such as the Noordoostpolder and Nordeast-Fryslân, both with a population of over 45,000, have no more than three out of nine easily accessible amenities.
Not every city can be a 15-minute city, urban accessibility professor Dick Ettema told the AD. “Each local council, apart from Alphen-Chaam, has a minimum amenity level, and you will have to accept that that is all.”
Ettema said more research is needed into how people experience the lack of easy access. “It wouldn’t surprise me if some people seek out places with fewer amenities because it makes for a quieter environment, “ he said.
At the moment Utrecht is the only Dutch city that is promoting the 15-minute city idea, but, according to Ettema, the approach is not working. “It is a fact that Utrechters are prolific car users, for instance, to visit relatives or to practice a hobby… The main benefit of having amenities on your doorstep is to the local environment,” he told the paper.
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