Is Belfast a 20-Minute city?

Is Belfast a 20-Minute city?
Basemap 20-minute city Belfast

Is Belfast a 20-Minute city?

If you don’t know already, we set off 2021 by starting an investigative blog series looking at 20-minute cities and whether any exist in the UK. To begin the series we asked, “What is a 20-minute city?”, essentially, all of your needs should be met within a 20-minute journey from your home either by public transport or walking, this includes work, shopping, health, and recreation. For a more detailed explanation click here.

About the Project

Each month we will focus on a different city and create 5 accessibility maps. To supermarkets, hospitals and GPs, primary schools, secondary schools, and public transport stops.

The Belfast calculations begun with a foundation of OpenStreetMap. On top of this, Basemap layered the public transport network within TRACC, 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 were sourced from various places and will be referenced for each individual city.

Last month we posted our very first 20-minute city blog, where we started our journey in one of the UK’s most historical cities, Bristol. Whilst the very first voyagers went as far as North America from Bristol, we decided to stay a little closer to home, considering the current limitations on travel. This month we’ve travelled past the vast English waters that are the Bristol and St. George’s channels, right into the Irish Sea to look at Belfast.

The Belfast results are in…..


At a quick glance, Belfast deceivingly seems to have low accessibility coverage, though this appears to not be the case upon closer inspection of the city’s residential make up. You can see in the maps that Belfast has large rural areas within its city boundary.

Most residents of Belfast City can easily access a hospital or a GP, where the majority can do so within 10-minutes, as can be seen by the lighter blue shade, with fewer residential areas having to travel much further than this. This is evident as 91.67% of the population can access any one of the 50 destinations.


For supermarkets, there is a visible decrease in accessibility compared to the other maps as residents located in the most Southern parts of the city are unable to access a supermarket, which is further highlighted by the census results whereby only 85.9% of the population can travel to a supermarket in 20 minutes. Generally, there are also larger areas inside the city where people are required to travel between 10 and 20 minutes when directly comparing it to Hospital & GP accessibility.

Having sourced this POI dataset from OSM resulting in 22 destinations, this number seems rather low and therefore might not reflect the true accessibility to supermarkets in Belfast. Despite the low number of destination points, the accessibility it still high with large coverage of the city.

The school maps were specifically calculated with the students’ ages in mind, including only the accessibility for children between the ages of 0-15 years old (this age group is slightly different from the Bristol dataset as the Irish data was formatted differently online).

Most young people can travel to any of the 85 primary schools (verses Bristol’s 105) in 10-minutes, exhibiting similarities to the Hospital and GP accessibility, with somewhat better access to the Eastern boundary. This is again reflected by the census figures as 92.88% of the students can access their school within 20 minutes.

With fewer secondary schools (43), there are some notable accessibility differences when looking at the previous primary school results. While most can access a secondary school in 20-minutes, as shown by the darker green shade, it does seem as though older students need to walk a little further to get to school. Regardless, 90.45% have access to education within the 20-minute city parameter.



Despite a whopping 1329 destination points, access to public transport stops is still not as high as previous maps (within 400 meters rather than 20 minutes). With only 61.13% of the population being 400-meter walking distance of a public transport stop. However, the lower accessibility is to be expected with aspects of Belfast being more rural resulting in less coverage of public transport stops.



Below is the table that will be filled in each month.

This includes the overall population of each city as well as the percentage of the population who can reach the various destinations within 20 minutes. The destination headings act as a key with the corresponding colours on the maps.

So… Is Belfast a 20-minute city?

Whilst at first glance there seems to be less accessibility in Belfast, the city is in no way any less accessible than Bristol, despite the tiny variances between the 10 and 20 minute bands. However, to get closer to achieving 20-minute city status Belfast would have to provide better access to rural areas.

Next month we are going to Birmingham!


Check out the previous blogs!


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 a MA in Publishing.