The false charm of the city of 15 minutes

Oxford City Council in the UK has proposed a concept called the 15 Minute City Zone. A test is scheduled for 2024. What exactly is it? On its surface, the plan sounds great: everything you need is within 15 minutes’ walk, or you can freely drive to get those essential items. Imagine grocery stores, parks, postal services, health services, coffee shops and banks being so close and convenient. But this is where the plan goes wrong. Firstly, the ‘essential’ elements were determined on behalf of UK citizens by a group of stakeholders. If your essential item wasn’t listed, I guess you’re out of luck.

In the name of sustainability

You will be able to drive freely within your own neighborhood, but you will be fined substantially for driving outside your perimeter into other neighborhoods. They plan to install cameras to read license plates to make sure you comply. Even with fines imposed, the City Council assures that they have no intention of coercing residents to stay in the same neighborhood. Oh no, far from it! They have assured citizens that they will be able to access certain marked roads at any time, and residents can even apply for permission to drive in other sectors up to 100 days a year. If you are walking or cycling, free travel to other areas is allowed. How generous the Council is! And it’s all done in the name of transport: the council is simply trying to solve the traffic congestion in the city centre. Sounds plausible, until it isn’t.

Scotland is now entertaining a similar concept based on the Oxford model. On the surface, these plans sound great, so convenient and solve the problem of public transportation in larger cities. However, these concepts have been around for a long time. They were first proposed in 2016, but elements have been around for more than six decades. Melbourne wants to have a 10-minute threshold, and Copenhagen is proposing a maximum of five minutes for everything. Planners use fancy terms like hyperproximity and aim for neighborhoods to promote social cohesion and public health. Indeed they do, and indeed these cities seem convenient. However, when fines and filters are imposed, and citizens are not allowed into other neighborhoods, it becomes questionable to say the least.

Paris is leading the charge, where the city has been in transformation for the past three years, since 2020, a transformation accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Cars are no longer allowed in many parts of the city, which has become a bike city, and advocates say the roads are now quieter, safer and cleaner. Opponents say that most Parisians already have access to most services on foot, and they achieved this on their own, without the help of city planners.

Global groups really started pushing the concept of these cities in July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, with their plan for a framework for cities to “build back better”. And we thought Build Back Better was unique to Joe Biden! Case studies have been completed or are in the works for 40 cities, including Berlin, Bogata, Shanghai and Seattle. Another study looked at 500 US cities to examine the feasibility of making them all 15-minute cities. The planning is not perfect, however; although researchers say low-income areas need these cities more, that’s not necessarily part of the plan. In one example, the predominantly black Chicago community of Riverdale has been cut off from these basic staples, leaving 84% of residents at risk of food insecurity.

The 15-minute city concept is getting international attention, both good and bad. The suburb of St. Louis of O’Fallon, Illinois, is playing with the concept of making life more “sustainable, comfortable and less stressful” for residents. It has received praise from The Guardian (UK) but also derision from the international community who refer to it as “international idiocy”.

The idea completely negates the purpose of cities as labor markets, some opponents say. Cities need a wide variety of workers and this cannot happen in a closed neighborhood. Just because you live near several skyscrapers doesn’t mean you’ll find work there. Will you have to move within the city every time you change jobs because you will be out of the area? Will you be able to buy the items you want in a specialist shop if it is outside your area?

Paris is one thing, but will this really work in the US Midwest? Let’s face it, the concept isn’t one-size-fits-all. Even the World Economic Forum says it won’t work well in a suburban nation like the United States, and they also cite inequalities in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The whole concept introduces shortages of items and therefore higher costs.

Many cite the origin of the 15-minute city to 19th-century Scotsman Patrick Geddes and his vision of “eutopian” cities that called for the eradication of individual plans in favor of a “more communal and conservative environment of “energy of people, work, and place.” These plans have also been heavily criticized as tyrannical along the lines of the COVID lockdown. Oxford City Council members have received death threats. The COVID lockdowns were a dry run for a more nefarious plan ? Maybe. Elon Musk has proposed hyperloops to transport people quickly, and his company Boring has even proposed digging tunnels to help people get around better. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman has a 500 billion project dollars called The Line, it’s a linear city in the middle of the desert, where everything you need can be reached with a 20-minute train ride.

What is this, really?

Does this mean that the world’s great cities will be off-limits to those of us who don’t live within 15 miles of, say, Paris or Barcelona? Will we ever be able to visit the great museums and theaters?

Some say that’s the plan. Although these cities are sold under the guise of the concept of a village with close community ties and close socialization, some, like David Icke in his recent interview with Dr. T, they say these cities are a setup for the hunger games. Scotland’s plan includes 20 minute access to food producing gardens. Will it be an abundance of lettuce for all, or will it really be the Hunger Games.

It’s not that far-fetched, if you think about it. You cannot mix with any other human from any other sector. You go through the basic needs. And you serve an elite few in the upper class. You’ll have so much you’ll never have to leave, but if you want to leave, will they let you? It sounds familiar. Very familiar.


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Fed Up Texas Chick is a contributing writer for The Tenpenny Report. She is a rocket scientist turned writer, having worked in the space program for many years. She is an experienced medical writer and researcher who fights for medical freedom for all of us through her work.

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