In an age of impossibly dumb conspiracy theories, the one currently revolving around so-called “15-minute cities” might be the dumbest yet. After all, you might think living in a community where you can walk or cycle to school, work, the grocery store and other local amenities is a good thing. The fact that there’s something called a “Walk Score” attached to almost every residential real estate listing in North America would seem to support that idea. Instead, it’s apparently part of a nefarious plan to lock people in their homes and deprive them of their freedom — all in the name of climate change.

The concept of a 15-minute city was first articulated in 2016 by French-Colombian urban planner Carlos Moreno, a scientific director and professor specializing in complex systems and innovation at the Sorbonne who now serves as the mayor of Paris’ Special Envoy for Smart Cities. It builds very clearly on the work of Jane Jacobs, who was advocating for mixed-use and human-scale neighbourhoods more than 60 years ago, while also integrating more contemporary concerns about climate change and COVID-19’s lasting impact on how and where we work. And after winning the Obel Award (a €100,000 prize for “recent and outstanding architectural contributions to human development all over the world”) in 2021, Moreno’s idea was set to be piloted in Oxford, England, in 2024.

That pilot, which involves implementing traffic “filters” — cameras, really — on six roads in the community, is little more than glorified congestion pricing, which already exists in many parts of the U.K. If a car passes that camera at certain times of the day, its owner would get a fine in the mail, while there would be exemptions for buses, emergency services, health workers, care workers and people receiving hospital treatments. Oxford residents could apply for permits to drive through the filters on up to 100 days a year, while residents in the surrounding community could get permits for up to 25 days a year. As a Dec. 7 statement from Oxford city council noted, “The 15-minute neighbourhoods proposal aims to ensure that every resident has all the essentials (shops, healthcare, parks) within a 15-minute walk of their home. They aim to support and add services, not restrict them.”

So how did this idea get turned into a global conspiracy? Ironically, because Jordan Peterson — someone who lives in a 15-minute city, by the way — decided to tweet about it. “The idea that neighbourhoods should be walkable is lovely,” he wrote in a Dec. 31 thread that now has 7.5 million views. “The idea that idiot tyrannical bureaucrats can decide by fiat where you're ‘allowed’ to drive is perhaps the worst imaginable perversion of that idea — and, make no mistake, it's part of a well-documented plan.”

Peterson declines to actually identify this “plan” but goes on to suggest that “for this of you wilfully blind enough to consider this a ‘conspiracy theory,’ think again.” His smoking gun is a link to the homepage for C40, a collection of climate-concerned cities that includes socialist hellholes like Houston, Rio de Janeiro and Peterson’s own Toronto.

Less than a month later, former CBC Dragon Brett Wilson decided to offer his own take. “The #Edmonton based eco-alarmists have gone off the deep end. Nuts. Crazy. Irrational. Bizarre proposal,” he tweeted, linking to a map of the English town of Canterbury with “Edmonton 15 minute cities” written over it. Andrew Knack, a City of Edmonton councillor and proponent of aligning his city’s zoning bylaws with the goals of a 15-minute city, felt compelled to issue a clarification on his Facebook page — one in which he cited Wilson’s tweet as the cause of so much confusion and misinformation.

Things aren’t going much better back in England, either. Just last week, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher demanded a debate on what he called the “international socialist concept of so-called 15-minute cities,” one he suggested could “take away personal freedoms.” That was apparently met with laughter from his colleagues, which is at least some small comfort.

This silliness will all die down in due course, as the conspiracy caravan moves on to its fever dream du jour. But it also speaks to a larger problem that won’t go away any time soon. The COVID-19 pandemic, and all the conspiracy theories it spawned, has created digital communities that revolve around spreading them. There is a disconcertingly large proportion of the public that is primed to believe these sorts of things, especially when they’re spread by high-profile people. And that seems to go double, at least in Canada, for anything that involves reducing fossil fuel usage or adapting to lower-carbon ways of living, like the idea of a 15-minute city.

It’s tempting to think the rest of us can simply ignore this and get on with our lives. But for this segment of the population, there is no getting on with their lives. Instead, the act of believing the unbelievable has in some respects become their life, whether it revolves around vaccinations, climate change or some other globally relevant issue. That’s going to make pursuing policies like 15-minute cities more difficult than it needs to be, and it might discourage public officials from doing and saying things they otherwise would. That’s a tax on the rest of us, whether we like it or not — and its price seems to keep going up.

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There is no shortage of work for Psychiatrists given all the seemingly unhinged people out there.

It goes beyond simply "crazy." Some better education might help to teach ppl how to think rationally/logically, and how to distinguish between "real science" and the conspiracy crap, real politics and the conspiracy crap, etc. etc. etc.

Peterson is becoming a tragic figure. His powerful intellect is hostage to his devotion to all things conservative. The conservative edict is that climate change, I mean global warming, it's not real so Peterson will wave that flag with all his might despite any evidence to the contrary. Brett Wilson is just plain greedy.

Good old Jordan! What an idiot along with Joe Rogan. As more and more large Western Democracy cities return their streets to people VS cars, they , their citizens and especially their businesses are finding it is a huge benefit to all.
Trust him to introduce " THE PLAN".
You want a plan formulated by the right wing neoliberals, Big business and the USA Republicans, try reading this:

It took 40 years for Republicans to skew the legal system and democracy and that is just the beginning of their PLAN

I encountered this very topic, recently, firsthand.

Preface: the idea of walkable, everything-nearby communities has been around for much longer than the, seemingly trademarked ( or merely trendy?) notion of 15 minute city.

To my mind, while the basic idea of reducing the travel necessities of urban living and, presumably, making the city, at a macro level, less demanding on the regional ecosystem (maybe even regenerative?), these days you can't undertake any sort of positive initiative without someone wanting to commandeer it, slap some data sensors on it, and then mine the data for fun and profit.

I have in mind Google's Sidewalk Labs fairly recent attempt on the Toronto waterfront though, admittedly, I don't know how much that concept jibed with that of the 15 minute city.

It's not unreasonable, in this new surveillance economy/society that we find ourselves in, for people to "see" (maybe "fear", "suspect" or "perceive" are more fitting verbs) ulterior motives, particularly when it is very difficult to maintain a comfortable level of knowledge currency. I think such real motives exist -- in my view most often driven by profit or "control" desires -- but aren't, necessarily, what people imagine.

Sidewalk Labs was an attempted private, corporate takeover of the public planning process in a neighbourhood where public assets (roads, sidewalk, etc.) were never privatized. It didn't work and was abandoned. It took Toronto planners and tech-dreamers too long to figure it out. The part where Google / Alphabet Inc. mined the data for every twitch of an eyebrow, every movement, every quick tinkle and every purchase to make proponents uncomfortable and more willing to ask questions.

I live in a 120-year old streetcar neighbourhood with, at last count, 485 shops less than a 15-minute walk away. It has always been so since the old growth forest was cut down, streetcar rails were laid and farms were cleared.

The 15-minute city concept evolved as car infrastructure and dependency wrecked human-scaled urbanism including homes, shops and neighbourhoods. The concept was made famous by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo who was also courageous enough to liberate downtown riverfront freeways from cars for human beings. The before / after experience was very dramatic.

Copenhagen, under the wise actions of architect Jan Gehl, who has become one of the best urban designers in the world, also saw a reduction of road and parking space of 100,000 m2 (25 ac.) over a 40-year period in the downtown area. That reduction occurred so slowly (around 3% a year) that no one seemed to notice. Much of the land was amalgamated into a series of beautifully executed pedestrian-only streets, known as the Stroget. It's one of Copenhagen's most treasured features, though real estate has capitalized on its popularity and commercial rents increased accordingly. That wasn't a capitalist conspiracy, mainly because Gehl is all about public space devoted to humans and has done extensive analysis on how people interact with these spaces, mainly in European plazas.

To call every inner city streetcar neighbourhood in Canadian cities and road reclamation projects in favour of walking, biking and transit-riding people a "conspiracy" is simply laughable.

The concept of the 15 minute is a great idea and makes complete sense to most people. The part that most "idiots" have is not with the concept of everything you need is within a 15 minute walk or bike ride. It is the part that requires a permit to travel outside your designated area and receiving a fine for doing so without "permission". This point is completely omitted on all the comments. The fear about this concept is not around the 15 minute walk to all the amenities, it is around the entire 3rd paragraph of this article. Not sure it can be called a conspiracy theory when the article clearly states there will be restrictions on your freedom of movement without permission or consequences.

There would be no restrictions on anyone's movement. There would be restrictions on where you can drive. If you don't drive you can go wherever you want whenever you want. It's basically road toll pricing which is not a bad idea in congested places.

It makes a lot of sense when you consider who owns the roads. The people! But today when cities are building out and the vast majority of Canadians live in them and there is now a crisis in the supply of space, the question is being asked more frequently, should public space be allocated to cards or to humans? We need roads, but with 40+% of the entire land area of cities devoted to public asphalt (private parking is on top of that), something has to give.

Why should a city provide free but increasingly valuable real estate just for dead storage space for cars? Why should a scenario where 70-75% of the road space for all traffic be taken up merely by single-occupant cars be tolerated any further? Road networks are a tremendous burden to build and maintain, and car drivers are not paying their fair share. Non-car owning citizens who pay property taxes should be rewarded for subsidizing all drivers.

"... should public space be allocated to CARS or to humans?..."

Don't NO subscribers pay enough to permit editors to upgrade the comments section to include an Edit button?
This is a good overview of Jordan Peterson's appeal. As an academic with impressive credentials, he's a real novelty in the context of a right wing now known for anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and anti-expertise generally. Unfortunately, he's not using those credentials to debunk the misinformation, has chosen instead to chase the broad, tacit acceptance of public fame by fanning the flames. On this 15 minute city thing for example, a reasonable idea, in focusing solely on the annoying sounding bureaucracy Oxford is planning he DOES have a point, which also speaks to the success of the right wing stance, having ONE point but entirely excluding context.
On what to do with the whole misinformation problem, a real preoccupation for many of us right now, I heard about "pre-bunking" this morning on CBC so looked it up:

Peace, order and good government shouldn't be more than a 15 minute walk away from every Canadian. And, no, Jordan, it wouldn't take me to long to explain it to you, And, no, it doesn't depend on what I mean by peace, order and good government.