1:50 pm—2:10 pm · June 13, 2024
Mary Ward Hall / Livestreamed
The Scottish government committed to support 20 minute neighbourhoods — but not all algorithms are equal, even the simplest ones. Scotland's particularly hilly towns present a challenge. How does the 20 minute neighbourhood profile change, in different Scottish towns, when the routing algorithm takes up/down hill walking into consideration?

Every day, governments use algorithms to understand place. We know that algorithms have assumptions, and that these rarely replicate the whole reality of what they model. But even so, the use of algorithms can be incredibly useful to identify issues, areas of need, give us insight into strategic changes, and even help us evaluate policy. 

Since 2020 the Scottish government has committed to “take steps that support the idea of 20 minute neighbourhoods – where people can meet their needs within a 20 minute walk from their house – enabling people to live better, healthier lives and supporting our net zero ambitions.”

An obvious, yet seldom mentioned detail in this topic is that a five minute walk for one person is not a five minute walk for another. A 70 year-old will have a different rate of walking, as will a younger or fitter person carrying three heavy bags of groceries. Many factors make the walk longer, and elevation is a highly relevant one, especially when considering walking times in different towns in Scotland. Crucially, it’s a factor for which we have data.

If we really want to understand x-minute neighbourhoods, we must make an attempt to include some of these factors when computing access across a town. Doing so will help us build data to understand different experiences, and so make better decisions. 

Gala presents analysis on the accessibility (or lack thereof) to transportation and services in a number of Scottish towns, taking into consideration slower paces when walking uphill, downhill, and both uphill and downhill.



  • Gala Camacho (Diagonal, UK)