If you’ve spent some time on the internet the past week or so, you might have seen talk about “15-minute cities.” The idea of a 15-minute city is simple: A place where residents can access almost everything they need within a 15-minute walk, bike ride, etc. This concept is actually quite an old one and is how most cities were planned until the last century when cars became king.
Many cities are turning back to the basics and embracing this concept in future city-planning projects. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Or, at least, that’s how some are trying to spin it. 15-minute cities have become the source of outrage for many politicians and internet personalities. A UK MP even mentioned the concept on the Parliament floor, referring to it as an “international socialist concept.”
What is the 15-minute city? It’s every city ever built by humans on this planet until a century ago, but with a catchy new name. And if the old parts haven’t been destroyed in the last century, it’s where the tourists go. And people travel across oceans to see the best of them. pic.twitter.com/r2BOcS3Y8t
— Steve Mouzon (@stevemouzon) February 19, 2023
Fear surrounding the subject has been spreading rampant in Europe—where, ironically, the most-visited cities with the highest quality of living follow the simple concept. Protests have broken out, comparing the idea to communism and barbarism. Most notably, a large protest occurred this past weekend in Oxford, where new city plans outline transit-oriented goals—increasing the efficiency of residential centers and being better overall for the climate. The measures would disallow cars from driving through certain pedestrian hubs, instead guiding them toward the outskirts to avoid congesting walkable areas with noise and air pollution. Protesters expressed concern that measures would lead to “infinite climate lockdowns.”
Let’s take back the power and say NO to these dystopian 15 minute cities.
Join @Togetherdec now pic.twitter.com/8HaOWjKLwk
— Tonia Buxton (@ToniaBuxton) February 12, 2023
Accounts dedicated to fighting the measures have begun to pop up and are even farming donations.
The theories around 15-minute cities stem from the bogus idea that they will limit your movement as a citizen. Opponents of the measures believe that their life will be cemented to a 15-minute radius, barring their movement from beyond the borders. This, of course, is ludicrous, but still, the idea is spreading. Many in the US and Canada ask: How long until this message becomes mainstream here?
15 minute cities like this coming to America. Face scan required to come and go in China’s schools.
— @amuse (@amuse) February 14, 2023
Edmonton, Canada, has already teased the idea of implementing a 15-minute model in its city centers. Some are outraged—or at least pretending to be—promptly testing the waters before diving headfirst into a nationwide conspiracy. Of course, in North America, 15-minute cities already exist in NYC, Boston, Toronto, Seattle, etc. and they are some of the most sought-after places to live.
Here in New Jersey, Jersey City has focused on this concept over the last decade—building new city centers that revolve around the idea of citizens rather than cars. We haven’t seen protests there yet, but the talking point was only just discovered, so perhaps give it time.
A real human being, a living, breathing, sentient human being has got so angry about the possibility of being able to nip out and back to the post office and the butchers in 10 minutes that they have painted this placard. pic.twitter.com/ok04egrAT2
— Mr Demos of Pnyx (@gem_ste) February 19, 2023
While there is a subset of people that are truly angry at the idea, most have taken the opportunity to poke fun at the reactionary response. 15-minute cities are certainly not new, but the name is. Of course, this idea that it is in some way nefarious holds as much weight as the idea that the earth is flat or lizards control the world. Still, don’t be surprised if the terminology starts popping up in the news more frequently—outrage sells.
15 minute city? how UNAMERICAN!
i should have to DRIVE my SUV at least THIRTY MINUTES to get to the grocery store
— ben ”bike bro” fryback (@BFryback) February 11, 2023
About the Author/s
Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for food journalism midway through his schooling and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. Peter never stops learning and he is always in the weeds.