Is Edinburgh a 20-minute city?

Is Edinburgh a 20-minute city?


Is Edinburgh a 20-minute city?

May has come and that means another city review. 

Earlier this month, our Head of Products, Dan Saunders was a panel member on a “Creating viable 20-minute neighbourhoods” webinar. Click here to see him in action or for the full webinar, click here.

Having virtually assessed and “visited” Wales (to read the blog, click here), this time Basemap is heading north to Edinburgh, Scotland.  

Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, is Scotland’s second-most populated city (with a population in 2021 of 543,000 [macrotrends.net2021]) and seventh-most in the entire UK. With the nicknames of Auld Reekie” (Old Smoky), “Edina“, “Athens of the North“, its earliest human occupation can be traced back over 10,000 years ago, with that of a Mesolithic encampment. And, although compact and hilly in its topography, Edinburgh hosts places of noticeable interest such as its historic fortress and royal castle (the Castle on the rock), constructed and in use since the year 12th Century and used by royals up until the 17th Century and then utilised as a military barracks which still dominates Edinburgh’s skyline to this day. 

Enough of the history lesson, let’s take a look at whether the city can be considered a true blue (and white) 20-minute city.

About the Project 

Each month we are focusing on a different city and creating 5 accessibility maps. To supermarkets, hospitals and GPs, primary schools, secondary schools, and public transport stops. 


All the cities begin with a foundation of a detailed road and footpath network, for cities in Great Britain we used OS Highways; now available in Datacutter. On top of this, Basemap layered the public transport network, for consistency, public transport data will all be taken from Q4 2020, allowing for any drastic changes to happen in 2021 without skewing the comparison results. 

For the origins, Basemap created a grid of points based on the city boundary and then found the Points of Interest (POI) within this boundary for each destination type. This means that the accessibility to these destination points could reach beyond the city boundary but for the scope of this series we are specifically looking at the accessibility within the city limits. Due to the different countries within this project, the Points of Interest was sourced from various places and will be referenced for each individual city.

For Scotland we collected the points of interest data from Datacutter directly. 

So the results of our TRACC analysis of Edinburgh are in… 

When viewing the maps it is apparent that there are large pockets around Edinburgh that access to the POIs (supermarkets, hospitals and GPs, schools and PT networks) are not accessible in 20 minutes using public transport and walking. Let’s look at the visual results…


 We’re starting with the highest number of destinations (490) for Edinburgh; the supermarkets. With 98.14% of residents in Edinburgh being able to access a supermarket within 20 minutes. Which is a great start to the overall analysis of whether Edinburgh is a 20-minute city.  

Let’s move on to access of key medical facilities. 




 Compared to last month’s city (Cardiff) Edinburgh has 100 more GPs and hospitals (overall 172). The vast majority of these healthcare facilities are located in the more densely populated areas of city. After running the calculations, we have observed that 97.12% of the local residents are able to access medicinal treatment within 20 minutes. If we look closer at the visual information presented, there are many residents who are able to access these facilities in less than 10 minutes, indicated by the larger area of light blue than dark blue. 


On to education… ready to learn something new? 

 When observing if primary school students aged between 5 and 10 have access to institutions within 20-minute city, it visually noticeable that the vast majority of individuals in and around the main city area have similar distributions within both 10 and 20 minutes of public transport or walking access to their schools and the results statistically back the visual observations up with 95.56% of local under 11’s reaching the 88 schools available.  


When analysing whether secondary school aged students have access to institutions in 20 minutes or less. Visually we can see that far fewer can reach one of their institutions in 10 minutes compared to 20 minutes (darker green). In comparison to primary schools, the census data used here, details that there is less than half the number of institutions (Secondary schools = 41 institutions). After running the calculations, it is noted that only 89.91% of the local 11-16 Edinburgh population are within 20 minutes.  



And now for the tricky one, walking distance to PT stops. As seen over previous months, this category is notoriously hard to score well in, with no cities even reaching the 70% mark.

The 400m target was chosen to reflect the standards that new building developments are held to, but not necessarily retroactively looked at for established residential areas. 
Again, this is shown in Edinburgh’s accessibility score. With only 42.98% of the population have accessibility to 1846 PT stops within 400 meters. With such beautifully rural outskirts to the city a longer walk to the bus stop is not only expected but a welcome tradeoff for the stunning views. Unfortunately, this does result in our lowest score in our investigation thus far.

Putting this result into context we can see that the slightly longer walk to a public transport stop has not hindered the overall 20-minute journey target in the other categories – it will just be less pleasant in the British weather! 

Next month we are staying in Scotland and heading over to Glasgow!


Keziah is the Digital Marketing Executive at Basemap Ltd. She has almost 2 years experience in the digital realm after graduating from the University of Plymouth with a BA in Illustration and an MA in Publishing.