Urban sprawl defines unsustainable cities, but it can be undone

“Urban sprawl defines unsustainable cities, but it can be undone”

The 15-minute city concept is one of many ideas popping up among rising interest in the benefits of making cities denser, healthier, lower-carbon-emitting, and easier to get around. It is the latest catchphrase to describe the “new urbanism” movement which first arrived in the United States around 1990, says Reid Ewing, professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah. “The new urbanism promotes towns and suburban cities that are built the way we used to build them back around 1900, where we had corner stores and neighborhood schools, and we had higher [housing] density and connected street networks.”

It’s a picture that contrasts many cities around the world today, especially in the US, where decades of city-planning policies have supported huge areas of urban sprawl and sparsely populated neighborhoods. The towns we know today often lock residents into lengthy car journeys to go about their daily lives, leading to congestion, air pollution, long commutes, and a lack of exercise. As the world struggles to undo unsustainable systems, as well as the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, cities are making their way back into the spotlight as potential solutions—and missteps.

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