What’s in Your 20-Minute Neighborhood?

erin potter bikearlington
Erin Potter Tweet Us @BikeArlington@BikeArlington March 22, 2018

Erin Potter is the former Program Manager for BikeArlington.

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Do you know what places you can reach within 20 minutes of your home by walking, biking, or taking transit? Explore the 20-Minute Neighborhood concept and how to enjoy more places and things to do close to home.

Can you reach everything you need and enjoy doing within 20 minutes of your home? A grocery store? A park? Do you think you could do it on foot or by bike? That’s the basic idea behind a concept called the 20-Minute Neighborhood, which has emerged as the gold standard for successful urban villages and desirable suburban communities alike.

The concept relies on two underlying premises:

  1. The time you spend walking, biking, or taking transit helps connect and ground you in your community. You can say “hi” to neighbors, notice new plants, stop by a store, and more, all while being greatly beneficial to your own health.
  2. If you are able to spend less time in a car getting somewhere, you have more time to spend on things that matter to you.

It’s an intriguing idea, but how do you determine what’s in your 20-Minute Neighborhood? I happen to be a poor judge of time and distance, and I am not quite sure what is in my neighborhood. I can make guesses based on a few trips I often take by bike or walking—the library and the Thai place up the street—but it’s tough to guess how long it would take to reach a new destination.

It’s Bigger than You Think

From doing outreach with BikeArlington and WalkArlington, I know I’m not alone. In fact, we have started bringing two clear plastic circles to our events, one marked 20-Minute Biking and one marked 20-Minute Walking to help people discover what’s within 20 minutes of their home. We use our handy bike maps and ask them to drop the center of the circle over their house and suddenly their neighborhood is much larger than they ever realized.

Elementary kids were delighted to learn they can reach Duck Donuts by bike from their house. One senior adult was pleased to learn she could walk to her friend’s house. These individuals had only ever reached these destinations by car, and it was empowering to see how excited they were to be able to get there under their own power.

How Far Can You Go?

If you can’t hang out with BikeArlington staff at an event, luckily, there’s an online tool that’s even smarter than our walking and biking radius circles. Michael Schade, Mobility Lab’s Senior Tech Advisor, built a responsive online tool called, Arlington Travelsheds. Rather than displaying a simple circle with the average distance someone can walk in 20 minutes, his tool takes into account real obstacles, like buildings, bridges, and rivers. It’s a truer representation of where you can travel.

Here’s where 20 minutes of walking from BikeArlington’s intergalactic headquarters can take you.

And 20 minutes of biking. We can just make it into Georgetown over the Key Bridge. This is a good example of a more realistic travel pattern, as you can clearly see how our travel into Georgetown is restricted by the Potomac River.

Last but not least, in the same amount of time on transit. You’ll notice that there are more islands, which represent transit stops. 20 minutes gets us to the East Falls Church Metro station!

Map Your Neighborhood

  1. Open the Arlington Travelsheds tool
  2. Enter your address in the top left bar
  3. Choose how you want to travel
  4. Select a desired travel time
  5. Watch the magic happen!

Now, put your findings to good use and explore your new neighborhood!

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