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[THE CLOSER YOU ARE] 15-minute city within reach for Vancouver, but not all benefit

The idea of a 15-minute city – where everyone’s essential needs can be met within walking distance – is within reach for Vancouver, but more needs to be done to provide access in certain neighborhoods, according to Simon Fraser University researchers.

The researchers found that 79% of residents in the City of Vancouver have access to a grocery store within a 15-minute walk and 99% had at least one grocery store within a 15-minute cycle.

However, there were inequities in access across populations and neighborhoods that disproportionately affected older adults, children, racialized populations, and those with lower employment and education rates.

“These are often the populations that have lower access to a car and would benefit most from having access to grocery stores by walking and cycling,” said lead author Kate Hosford. “Designing cities so that people can access their daily needs by foot or bike not only makes for a more inclusive city but is also beneficial from a health and environmental perspective.”

To assess Vancouver residents’ access to grocery stores, Hosford mapped out 169 grocery stores identified within the city and neighboring Burnaby and quantified how many were within a 15-minute walking or cycling trip.

Among walkers, 91% of the city’s population had access to at least one store within 15 minutes when using the average walking speed of a younger walker (4.8 km/h) but that number declined dramatically when using an average walking speed of an older walker (3.6 km/h). About one fifth of the city’s population had no grocery store within 15 minutes.

The study was restricted to Vancouver, which is one of the most amenity-dense cities in Canada, Hosford noted. If she were to repeat this analysis across Metro Vancouver, she suspects that far fewer areas would have good local access to grocery stores by walking or cycling.

To improve accessibility in the longer term, Hosford suggests that land-use policies that support mixed-use higher density neighborhoods are needed across the city. In the short term, more funding and supports could be put towards programs that help people access groceries – such as Better at Home and the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities program.

To read the full study, “Is the 15-minute city within reach” Evaluating walking and cycling accessibility to grocery stores in Vancouver,” click here

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