What difference can 20 minutes make?

What difference can 20 minutes make?

  • 20-minute neighborhood
  • detroit
  • safety
  • policy
  • mayor duggan
  • neighborhoods

The concept ‘20-minute neighborhood’ has become a buzzword in Detroit since Mayor Mike Duggan introduced it during a keynote speech at the Mackinac Policy Conference in spring last year.  It’s important to note, however, that the concept is not a new one.

Think of how neighborhoods and people lived before widespread car ownership was common. In the infamous, prosperity-filled decade that followed World War II, the U.S. auto industry was wildly successful, and investments in the interregional highway system soon followed. Car ownership suddenly became a facet of American culture - a necessary accessory in order to achieve an idyllic suburban life; the ‘American dream’.

Today, in the Metro Detroit area, where a 20-minute drive for everyday errands is the shortest of most residents’ daily commutes, the idea of services and institutions all within a 20-minute walk sounds great (but maybe not in the winter). If we think of this spatially, a 20-minute walk would equate to just over a mile in distance.
Think to yourself: what does the neighborhood look like, in any direction, one mile from you? Are there places to go, people to visit, or things to do? If not, then what’s in the way?

Working on transportation research here in Detroit this past summer, something that really stuck with me, was how much time school-aged children spent riding the bus to get to school, a job or to a friend’s house, as well as the amount of obstacles they encountered during their journey. I was unaware of the 20-minute neighborhood concept at the time of this research experience, however, after hearing more about it, I think it makes perfect sense on a multitude of levels, not just in Detroit, but nationwide. The concept, and the stories I heard over the summer, were the inspiration for my Detroit 2027 vision.

So how does Detroit and its residents make the the 20-minute neighborhood a reality? What exactly comprises a 20-minute neighborhood, beyond the services it is meant to yield?
Firstly, a thriving community is needed to uphold the businesses and schools that support the 20-minute neighborhood plan. They also need to be constructed in a fashion that encourages walking and biking. Another piece, probably the most important, to keep in mind is that a 20-minute neighborhood needs to feel safe. This is crucial when you hear stories of school kids being harassed or robbed on their way to and from from the bus stop. It means adequate lighting, responsive and attentive public servants, and a bustling communal space to deter those who intend harm.
"A 20-minute neighborhood needs to feel safe. This is crucial when you hear stories of school kids being harassed on their way to the bus stop"
The different aspects that make up a successful 20-minute neighborhood can help us all realize the opportunity starting in our own backyard. We should all be considering what we can do, on daily basis, to make our neighborhoods better.
As residents, we have the power to commence this plan, put our boots on the ground and make a start in realizing Mayor Duggan’s grand vision for Detroit. Whether it’s a neighborhood watch, initiating a community garden, picking up trash, attending city council meetings, demanding better sidewalks, there are many things we can initiate. Continued civic engagement and dedication to our immediate surroundings will be the beginning of implementing 20-minute neighborhoods in Detroit, no policies are required for us to start.
-- Colleen 
Featured Photo: Getty Images
2016 Mackinac Policy Conference: Mayor Mike Duggan Keynote Address:

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