The False Allure of the 15-Minute City

The UK’s Oxford City Council has proposed a concept called the 15-minute city zone. A trial run is set for 2024. What is it exactly? On its surface, the plan sounds great: everything you need is accessible by a 15-minute walk, or you could drive freely to get these essential items. Imagine grocers, parks, postal services, health services, coffee shops and banks all being that close and convenient. But here’s where the plan goes awry. First, the “essential” items were determined on behalf of the UK citizens by a group of stakeholders. If your essential item was not on the list, well, I guess you’re out of luck.

In the name of sustainability

You’ll be able to freely drive within your own neighborhood, but you’ll be substantially fined for driving out of your perimeter into other neighborhoods. They plan to install cameras to read the license plates to make sure you comply. Even with fines imposed, the City Council assures people that they have no intent to coerce residents into staying in one neighborhood. Oh no, far from it! They have assured citizens that they will be able to access certain designated roads at any time, and residents can even apply for permits to drive into other sectors for up to 100 days a year. If you are on foot or on a bike, free travel into other areas will be allowed. How generous the Council is! And it’s all being done in the name of transport: the council is simply trying to address traffic congestion in the city center. 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 solving the issue of public transit in larger cities. However, these concepts have been around for a while. They were first proposed in 2016, but elements of it have been around for over six decades. Melbourne wants to have a 10-minute threshold, and Copenhagen proposes a maximum of five minutes to everything. Planners use fancy terms like hyperproximity, and purport that neighborhoods promote social cohesion and public health. Indeed they do, and indeed these cities sound 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 last 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 bicycle city, and proponents say roads are now quieter, safer, and cleaner. Opponents say that most Parisians already have walking distance access to most amenities, and this was achieved by themselves, without the help of city planners.

Global groups began really pushing the concept for these cities in July 2020, in the height of the pandemic, with their plan for a framework for cities to “build back better”. And we thought that Build Back Better was unique to Joe Biden! Case studies are completed or in work for 40 cities, including Berlin, Bogata, Shanghai and Seattle. Another study has examined 500 cities in the United States to examine the feasibility of turning all of them into 15-minute cities. The planning isn’t perfect though; despite researchers who say that low-income areas need these cities the most, this isn’t necessarily part of the plan. In one example, the Chicago mostly-black community of Riverdale has been isolated from these basic essentials, leaving 84% of residents at risk for food insecurity.

The 15-minute city concept is getting international attention, both good and bad. The St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Illinois is toying with the concept to make life more “sustainable, convenient, and less stressful” for residents. It has received praises from The Guardian (UK) but also scoffs 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 that can’t happen in a lock-down neighborhood. Just because you live near several high-rises doesn’t mean you’ll get a job there. Will you have to move within the city every time your job changes because you’ll be out of the zone? Will you be able to shop at a specialty shop for items you desire if it is outside your zone?

Paris is one thing, but will this really work in America’s Midwest? Let’s face it, the concept is not a 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 the inequalities to disadvantaged neighborhoods. The entire concept introduces scarcity of items and therefore higher costs.

Many cite the origin of the 15-minute city to 19th-century Scotsman Patrick Geddes and his vision for “Eutopian” towns that called for the eradication of individual plans in favor of a “more communal, energy-conserving environment of folk, work, and place.” These plans have also been highly criticized as tyrannical along the lines of COVID lockdowns. Members of the Oxford City Council have received death threats. Were the COVID lockdowns a dry run for a more nefarious plan? Maybe. Elon Musk has proposed hyperloops to quickly transport people, and his Boring Company has even proposed digging tunnels to help people move around better. Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammed bin Salman has a $500 billion project called The Line; it is a linear city in the middle of the desert, where everything needed is reachable by a 20-minute train ride.

What is this, really?

Does this mean that the great cities of the world will be off limits to those of us who don’t live within the 15-mile radius of let’s say Paris or Barcelona? Will we never be able to visit the great museums and theaters?

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

It’s not so far-fetched, if you think about it. You are not allowed to mix with any other human from any other sector. You scrape by for basic needs. And you serve an elite few in the upper class. You’ll have so much that you’ll never need to leave, but if you want to leave, will you be allowed to? Sounds familiar. Very familiar.


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

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