Conspiracy misinterprets the ’15 minute city’ concept

Conspiracy misinterprets the ’15 minute city’ concept

Cities where people can walk to work, school and other daily necessities without daring traffic-choked highways or long commutes: utopian ideal or dystopian nightmare?

In 2023, apparently, it depends on who you ask.

Some conservative commentators and conspiracy theorists increasingly believe the idea of ​​a “15-minute city” — an urban design principle recently adopted by cities from Paris, France to Cleveland, Ohio — is the latest nefarious plot to erode individual liberties.

“You cannot use your own vehicle on certain roads and highways without permission and consent from the government,” claimed an Instagram user in a recent video that has been liked more than 5,400 times. “You will be monitored by surveillance cameras at all times to ensure that you do not leave your designated residential area without first being authorized to do so.”

But urban experts and city officials insist the idea has nothing to do with restricting people’s movement or taking away other freedoms. In some cases, they say, congested roads are being mistakenly mixed with local plans to alleviate them.

Here’s a closer look at the event.

Claims: “15-minute cities” are designed to restrict people’s movement, increase government surveillance and violate other personal rights.

Reality: The idea of ​​urban planning is simply to create more compact, walkable communities where people are less dependent on cars.

Conspiracy theories began in the UK late last year, as the idea was combined with attempts to impose New vehicle ban to ease traffic congestion In and around the famous university community of Oxford.

Approved by Oxfordshire County Government A system of “traffic filters”. For six busy roads where drivers will need a special permit for daytime travel.

But Oxford City Council spokesman Tony Ecclestone said the county’s initiative was separate from the council’s endorsement of the 15-minute city concept, which is a key part. The city planning document is developing it.

He is a gesture Description of incident County and city governments jointly issued a resolution in December to set the record straight.

The fact sheet states that the filters are not physical barriers that would restrict people to their local area, but rather traffic cameras that would photograph the license plate of a non-compliant driver, who could then be fined. Drivers will still be able to get to any part of the city at any time, but may have to take a different route.

The 15-minute neighborhood proposal, meanwhile, “ensures that every resident has all the essentials (shops, health care, parks) within a 15-minute walk of their home,” the fact sheet says. The goal is to “support and add to services, not limit them.”

Urban planning experts credit Carlos Moreno, a professor at Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University. popularize 15 minute city concept. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, has made it one of its most visible proponents central policy In his successful re-election campaign in 2020.

Dan Lusser, its creator 15 minutes to townA blog devoted to design concepts, argues that it is “first and foremost about choice”, not coercion.

“It’s about creating neighborhoods and cities with urban amenities nearby and convenient and safe options for getting around,” he wrote in an email. “It’s about enabling people to meet their needs within their own neighborhood, not confining them to that neighborhood. It’s about mobility, not lockdown.”

Robert Stuteville, of the Congress for the New Urbanism, a D.C. nonprofit that advocates for walkable cities, agrees, adding that the idea isn’t all that novel either: Most cities built before 1950, when highways and suburbs became dominant, are 15 minutes There were cities

“The point is to give people more freedom to choose where they can comfortably and affordably live in the city, not to restrict freedom of movement,” said Nate Storing, co-executive director of the Project for Public Spaces, a New York nonprofit. advocate for better urban design, wrote in an email.

Carlo Ratti, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sensible Cities Laboratory, notes that conspiracy theorists are tapping into the COVID-19 pandemic-era vitriol against lockdowns when they falsely portray the concept as a “climate lockdown.”

They also draw on right-wing tropes about world-minded organizations pushing a “socialist agenda” and “socialist agendas”. Great reset of society, he said. Actually, a Related conspiracy theories Recently circulated online lies claim the United Nations and the World Economic Forum will “forcibly evict” people living on contaminated land and make them live in “smart cities.”

“Even for those unaccustomed to the vocabulary of the alt-right, the idea of ​​a distant elite ripping up their way of life to conform to the idea of ​​a perfect city can be hard to stomach,” Ratti wrote in an email.

In Cleveland, Mayor Justin Bibb hopes his Northeast Ohio city can be the first in the country to implement the planning framework.

But there was no talk of imposing new traffic rules or restricting personal freedoms, confirmed Beebe spokeswoman Mary Zickfuss. City officials have so far conducted a land use study and are working to update city policies to encourage a better mix of amenities along major commercial and transit corridors, he said.

“The 15-Minute City’s mission is to provide convenient and equitable access to essentials such as health care, schools, grocery stores, jobs and greenspace,” Zickefoose wrote in an email. “Our transportation systems and neighborhood configurations currently provide this access to residents with cars, which leaves about a quarter of our residents.” ___ This is part of AP’s efforts to address widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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