Cities Adopting the 15-Minute Vision
The 15-minute city is an urban planning concept that has been gaining traction worldwide as a sustainable and people-centric solution to modern urban challenges. The idea was first introduced by Professor Carlos Moreno, a French-Colombian scientist and Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at Sorbonne University in Paris. Moreno’s vision aims to create a city where residents can access work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their homes.
The main goals of the 15-minute city concept are to reduce car dependency, promote healthy and sustainable living, and improve the overall quality of life for city dwellers. By creating a city where daily necessities are easily accessible, residents can enjoy increased physical activity, social interaction, and a stronger sense of community. This approach to urban planning also helps reduce pollution and carbon emissions, contributing to a more environmentally sustainable city.
Several cities around the world are already embracing the 15-minute city concept, including Paris, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo has made it a cornerstone of her urban policy. Other cities, such as Melbourne and Barcelona, have also implemented similar concepts, focusing on walkability and prioritising public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. In the UK, councils in Ipswich, Bristol, Canterbury, and Sheffield have proposed elements of a 15-minute city, while Oxford aims to become a fully functioning 15-minute city by 2040.
Benefits: Healthier, Sustainable Living
The positive aspects of the 15-minute city concept are undeniable. It offers a solution to modern urban issues such as traffic congestion, air pollution, and social isolation, while fostering healthier and more connected communities. As more cities consider adopting this innovative urban planning approach, it has the potential to significantly improve the lives of urban dwellers, create more resilient and sustainable cities, and usher in a new era of people-centric urban design.
Debunking Far Right Distortions
Despite the numerous benefits of the 15-minute city concept, recent troubling reports have emerged highlighting how far right groups and conspiracy theorists are attempting to distort and weaponize the idea as a form of state control. Carlos Moreno expressed his shock in an interview, stating, “It’s shocking – for me, it is the first time in my life when I was totally targeted by the conspiracy world – communists, Stalinists, neo-fascists.”
It is deeply concerning that yet again some media outlets, such as the Daily Mail, GB News and Spiked seem to be fuelling this hysteria by framing the concept negatively and using derogatory terms to describe those involved. For instance, the Daily Mail refers to climate activists as “eco zealots” and those opposing the 15-minute city concept as “freedom fighters.”
Otto English in his article on Byline Times reports on the actions of Spiked, a libertarian website established following the dissolution of Living Marxism, the Revolutionary Communist Party’s publication. Numerous Spiked activists and writers are notorious for their climate change denial and resistance to pandemic lockdown measures. The website has featured articles critiquing the 15-minute city concept, with some of its contributors playing a role in launching anti-authoritarian movements, like the #Together campaign, initially a protest against government-enforced restrictions amid the COVID pandemic. Some individuals linked to Spiked were present at the Oxford rally on February 18th, where conspiracy theories associated with the 15-minute city concept gained momentum.
Exposing Lies: Unleashing 15-Minute City’s Real Promise
As we strive to create a sustainable, people-centric urban future, it’s disheartening to see that the 15-minute city concept has joined the ranks of conspiracy theories favourites, such as new world orders, microchips in COVID vaccinations, anti-lockdown, anti-5G network, and even the fanciful tales of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and Elvis sightings. These unfounded ideas detract from genuine discussions and progress, highlighting the importance of focusing on facts and evidence-based practices in urban planning. The right wing, libertarian press ought to feel a deep sense of shame for irresponsibly peddling such baseless and harmful conspiracy theories, undermining progress toward more sustainable cities and towns.
In response to conspiracy theories and misunderstandings surrounding the 15-minute city concept, Moreno clarified the main objectives, saying, “My fight is how could we improve the quality of life – and to improve the quality of life we need a city without zonification with a lot of local services, with more natural ecology for reducing our CO2 emissions, to have more economical activities, and to develop more social inclusion, culture, education, and public space.”
While conspiracy theories have spread through social media, Moreno remains optimistic about the real-world implementation of 15-minute cities. He said, “Even if this is a noisy movement in the social network, the social network is not the real life. This is very, very, very important. We have a lot of people with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, but in real life, 15-minute cities are being implemented.”
This sensationalist and divisive narrative only serves to undermine the genuine and positive goals of the 15-minute city concept. It is crucial that we, as a society, remain vigilant against such manipulative tactics and base our understanding of urban planning initiatives on facts and evidence, rather than unfounded conspiracy theories. The 15-minute city offers a vision of a sustainable and people-centric urban future that can improve the lives of millions.
Cities Overcoming Fear mongering and Misinformation
As cities around the world continue to adopt the 15-minute city concept, it is essential to counter the fearmongering and misinformation spread by far right groups and conspiracy theorists. By focusing on the tangible benefits of the concept, such as healthier living, increased social interaction, and a more sustainable environment, city planners and residents alike can overcome these distortions and work towards creating more inclusive and people-centric urban spaces.
By recognising the power of local services, natural ecology, and social inclusion to improve quality of life, the 15-minute city can become a reality for urban dwellers across the globe. Through collaboration, education, and public discourse, we can ensure that the implementation of this innovative approach to urban planning remains rooted in evidence-based practices, rather than succumbing to the influence of unfounded conspiracy theories and divisive narratives.
Embracing the 15-minute city concept, we can unite to build a resilient, thriving, and inclusive urban landscape, where every step forward defies unfounded fears and takes us closer to a brighter, sustainable tomorrow.
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It is rather foolish of this author to employ terms that are closely identified with statist lockdown propaganda. Using a shop-worn CIA meme, he ridicules the opponents of the 15-Minute concept as “conspiracy-theorists,” and goes so far as to denigrate some of these opponents as “notorious for their climate change denial and resistance to pandemic lockdown measures.” At least as regards their position on lockdowns these miscreants have earned my heartfelt respect.
So often the devil is in the details. Before the techno-managerial class imposes another ill-considered scheme on the scale of the covid fiasco, it is important to ask the question Who Pays? In this regard, when it come to revamping the cities of the world. It should be noted that this discussion is taking place with a neoliberal framework, in which superficially attractive reforms are often imposed at high cost to ordinary people.
In her 2015 work Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, the leftward critic Wendy Brown notes that “[n]eoliberal governance stresses the devolution of authority as part of its formal antipathy to centralized state power and as part of its emphasis on problem solving achieved by stakeholders. But devolved power and responsibility are not equivalent to thoroughgoing decentralization and local empowerment. Devolution frequently means that large-scale problems…are sent down the pipeline to small and weak units unable to cope with them technically, politically, or financially.” (p.132)
It is not only the notorious conspiracy theorist who might wonder (among other concerns) what fiscal resources will be made available to these urban hamlets so that they might realize the great and beneficial goals envisioned by well-intentioned planners – especially if the Western world is poised nowadays on the cusp of a depression.
It is crucial to make clear that any alleged CIA involvement or lockdown conspiracies have nothing to do with urban planning and development projects in response to the commentator’s scepticism. By focusing on these issues, the commentator may have inadvertently fallen into a rabbit hole of their own making, detracting from the more relevant aspects of the discussion.
Urban planning and development should be approached as a means to improve the quality of life for all members of society. The goal is to create sustainable, inclusive, and vibrant communities that can adapt to the challenges of the future. It is crucial to view these initiatives through a lens that focuses on their potential benefits, rather than getting sidetracked by unrelated conspiracy theories or perceived associations.
By engaging in thoughtful, informed dialogue and challenging preconceived notions based on political affiliations, we can strive for urban development that fosters inclusivity, sustainability, and prosperity for all. It is essential to evaluate the substance of the arguments and the merits of urban planning proposals objectively, without allowing unrelated concerns to cloud the conversation.
An important aspect to consider when discussing urban planning proposals is the timeline for their implementation. Large-scale projects often take years, if not decades, to come to fruition. As a result, it is likely that these initiatives will span across multiple political administrations, encompassing politicians of different ideological affiliations. This further emphasises the importance of evaluating urban planning proposals based on their merits and long-term benefits, rather than focusing on the political leanings of those who may introduce or support them.
In fact, the long-term nature of these projects presents an opportunity for collaboration and consensus-building among political parties and stakeholders. By focusing on shared goals and objectives, such as creating sustainable, inclusive, and vibrant communities, urban planning can serve as a platform for bridging political divides and fostering cooperation. Ultimately, the success of urban development initiatives depends on the ability of all stakeholders to work together in the best interest of their communities.
In conclusion, separating urban planning proposals from any alleged CIA involvement or lockdown conspiracies is vital to having a productive discussion about the potential benefits of these initiatives. By approaching these proposals with an open mind and a commitment to examining their potential long term contributions to our communities, we can work towards urban development that benefits everyone.
The 28 March NYT article, upon which Mr. Pearson bases his conspiracy remarks, reads in part: “For high-profile figures, such as the infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, misinformation and the hostility it can cause have long been a part of the job description. But increasingly, even professors and researchers without much of a public persona have faced intimidation from extremists and conspiracy theorists.”
Is Mr. Pearson entirely comfortable in lumping Prof. Carlos Moreno with Fauci and Gates, two pre-eminent scoundrels?
The purpose of my own comment was to point out that straw-man arguments condemning conspiracy theorists (à la NYT) are a pointless distraction. It one wishes to critique Moreno’s work there is no need to go hunting in the shadows.
For example: apart from readily identifying with neoliberal ideology, Prof. Moreno relies upon a central ambiguity to market his scheme. Citing Mr. Pearson’s gloss, the Professor’s purpose is to fashion urban environments in which a resident can access most services “within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their homes”. Now, according to the recreation literature, the average person can walk about 1 mile in 15 minutes, while a bicyclist can cover over 3 miles in the same period of time. This threefold difference can hugely alter the projected perimeter of a city, swelling or shrinking its fiscal base. Yet that fundamental scalar issue is simply glossed over.
It is likely that the 15-Minute City will go the way of Prof. Moreno’s earlier brainchild, The Smart City, but it won’t be conspiracy-theorists who bring about its end.
While the comparison of Professor Carlos Moreno to Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates in the context of facing hostility from conspiracy theorists may not be entirely appropriate in the NYT, it is important to focus on the substance of Moreno’s work rather than the straw-man arguments that detract from the discussion. Critiquing Moreno’s 15-minute city concept based on its merits and flaws is a more productive approach.
Regarding the central ambiguity you mentioned, it is true that there is a significant difference between the distances covered by walking and biking in 15 minutes. This discrepancy should be addressed and clarified by Moreno and other urban planners working on the 15-minute city concept. However, it is worth noting that the idea behind the 15-minute city is to promote a more sustainable and people-centric approach to urban planning, which goes beyond the specific distance metric.
The 15-minute city concept is not about confining people to specific areas or limiting their freedom of movement. Rather, its primary aim is to create urban environments that prioritise accessibility, convenience, and sustainability for residents. By ensuring that essential services, work opportunities, and leisure spaces are within a short distance from one’s home, the concept promotes a more efficient use of urban space and a reduction in carbon emissions from transportation.
In fact, the 15-minute city can encourage increased mobility and exploration within urban environments, as it fosters walkable, bike-friendly neighborhoods that are interconnected and vibrant. This approach to urban planning seeks to strike a balance between local self-sufficiency and a sense of belonging to a larger urban community. By making cities more accessible and people-centric, the 15-minute city concept ultimately aims to enhance the quality of life for all residents, without imposing any restrictions on their freedom to move and explore beyond their immediate surroundings.
Rather than dismissing the concept due to its potential flaws or ambiguities, it would be more constructive to engage in a critical discussion that seeks to improve and refine the concept. The goal is to create more sustainable, healthy, and connected urban environments, and it is essential to focus on evidence-based practices and sound urban planning strategies. Dismissing the 15-minute city concept based on its association with conspiracy theories only serves to hinder the progress towards more sustainable and inclusive urban spaces.
As thoughtful citizens we are well advised to look collectively before we leap. Given the backlash generated by Prof. Moreno’s Smart City scheme (which was roundly rejected by the City Council of Toronto, my home town), there is ample reason to query his most recent proposal in turn.
If the 15-Minute City consists merely in tinkering with retail taxation rates by which businesses are encouraged to locate in under-serviced neighborhoods, then one can hardly object to Moreno’s “vision”.
However, if the 15-Minute model involves the multiplication of publicly-supported cultural venues across the urban space, basic fiscal issues immediately arise.
In this neoliberal world it is harder yet to imagine the devolution of municipal authority in the form brick-and-mortar townhalls reachable by a short bikeride.
In general, if semi-autonomous communities are envisioned, public expenses will mount steeply through duplication of services.
One recalls the clash between Robert Moses, the NYT’s mega-planner, and Jane Jacobs, who fought to preserve existing neighbourhoods against renewal schemes. At times one wonders if Carlos Moreno (and other like-minded urban planers) actually embody Moses’ steely spirit while disguised in Jacobs’ soft angelic robes.
Isn’t now the time to ask hard questions – before the dozers start up?
If we imagine a 15-minute neighbourhood which includes easily-accessible GPs and dentists, primary and nursery schools, a library, a community centre, a park, culture and sporting facilities, food outlets, communal childcare, cooking and laundry facilities, that would indeed be something to be desired, even if in the current austerity-drenched UK it seems a bit far off.
However, many, if not most, people would still need to travel outside of their neighbourhood for work, socialising and other purposes, so a mass transport system would still be required. In keeping with this new socialised vision, that transport system would also need to be a public service, free at the point of use as with schooling, health, museums and libraries. What is there not to like in such a new world order?