Amid all the hype around the 15-minute-city of sustainable, walkable neighbourhoods, the pandemic has accelerated another kind of 15-minute-city, where everything can be delivered almost instantly to your door.

This leaflet was handed to me last week, promising ‘quality groceries delivered in minutes’. Just tap an order in your smart phone and a short-while after a motorbike will zoom-up and hand you your shopping.

Welcome to the new world of Q-commerce, (short for quick commerce), the next evolution of E-commerce that’s sweeping across our cities. Instead of waiting days for your delivery, you get your groceries, gear or gifts in a matter of minutes. In satisfying today’s connected consumer, speed, rather than quality, is of the essence.

E-commerce and Q-commerce had been growing steadily over recent years, and were…

nextbike Cardiff

Ten lessons for the urban journey to net zero.

Cities will play a central role as the climate crisis unfolds. They produce around 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and they will suffer many of the worst impacts of climate change — over-heating, flooding, and resource-shortages. At the same time, these urban agglomerations are also the sites of low-carbon innovation and ingenuity.

Cardiff University convened an event ‘City Strategies for Net Zero’ to learn about what different people in different cities are doing, to examine what’s worked and what hasn’t, and understand what more is needed. We brought together city leaders, academic experts, and hands-on practitioners for what turned…


With the number of older people steadily increasing, why aren’t we designing our cities to be age-friendly?

I was running a futures workshop recently, and someone put up a virtual post-it note for the year 2030. It read: ‘Planning policy requires Age-Friendly Homes’.

I thought, great call. And then I thought, why should we have to wait till 2030 for this, when we’ve known about our ageing population for decades?

I always counsel that the future is impossible to predict and that we need to prepare for multiple potential outcomes. But one area where we have a reasonable amount of certainty is demographics. …

Transforming Regent Street. The Crown Estate

Covid has provoked urban innovation at an unprecedented scale and pace; as we emerge from the pandemic, how can cities lock in the best of these changes?

How we live in our cities has changed dramatically over just a few months. It’s easy to feel very gloomy when you see vacant offices, shuttered shops, and empty trains. And things are grim for many people. But do I take heart from some of the positive urban responses to the pandemic. If governments and city authorities make the right choices, we could emerge from the crisis with resilient cities that are healthier, greener and more liveable for everyone.

Space For People Not Cars

As the crisis broke, people abandoned public transport and started walking, cycling and running in order…

If sci-fi paints pictures of how our tomorrows might unfold, what are some of the best novels of the past few years telling us?

As a society, we’re not very good at looking into the future and preparing for what it might throw at us. Covid-19 has made that painfully clear.

One of the ways that we have a conversation with the future, and try to understand it, is through science fiction.

Of course sci-fi is often about today’s preoccupations, but it can be a useful guide to the future. Writing fiction unlocks the authors’ imaginations and allows them to create visionary worlds that extrapolate today into tomorrow.

And there may be a feedback loop, because these visions and stories help frame invention and…

We’ll buy more on online, but we’ll still want to go shopping

Oxford Circus. KaiPilger, pixabay

Over a decade ago, when Forum for the Future did ‘Retail Futures’ with Tesco and Unilever, I predicted that shopping would follow two distinct paths: we’d buy an increasing amount online, especially our basics like bog-roll, but at the same time we would witness the growth of “shopping as theatre”, part of a family leisure activity.

In recent weeks, two things confirmed that we are, indeed, on this journey, and pointed to what this future of shopping might mean for the shape and feel of our cities. First…

In the past month I’ve visited two cities — Barcelona and Beijing — pursuing drastically different directions to the smart, technology-enabled city of the future. I know which of the urban visions I prefer; and I know which one I think will prevail.

There is no doubt that digital tech, in the form of big data, internet of things, transport algorithms and wearables — will increasingly shape our cities and how we live in them. But who will control the development and deployment of these technologies in the metropolitan arena? And what will that mean for us as citizens?


Professor Peter Madden, OBE

Futures for cities, places, & real estate. Professor of Practice in City Futures, Cardiff University; Chair, Building with Nature @thepmadden

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store