The 15-Minute City Offers Freedom, Not Restriction

There are obvious reasons we don’t take everything on social media at face value. Otherwise, we’d believe COVID-19 was created in a lab, Democrats were involved in human trafficking, the Sandy Hook shooting was staged, vaccines are bad, etc. We can go on forever.

Now the conspiracy theorists are trying to hijack a subject area near and dear to my heart, city planning. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the false claims (not backed by any credible references) that the 15-minute city concept is a government conspiracy to trap people within a confined area.

For your reference, I’ve shared one of the videos (below) which has gone viral on Tiktok. It makes unverified claims that the 15-minute concept for Mississauga’s Cooksville neighbourhood will confine residents within their area and limit their travels outside to 100 trips per year and be charged $56 each time exceeded. My initial thoughts were as follows: First off, why does this woman look like she’s 12 years old? Does she have any professional experience or education in planning? What are her sources? For all I know, she’s just yet another person with nothing better to do but post made-up theories on the internet. As well, I follow Mississauga Council very closely yet never heard a thing that validates anything she says.

The consensus among those who actually study the built environment is that the 15-minute city rather offers numerous benefits, especially to those without a driver’s licence or a car. As someone who lives in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, a 15-minute neighbourhood itself, I appreciate having the world at my doorsteps with the luxury of car-free mobility, as opposed to being isolated in car-dependent places in the outskirts. Over the past half-decade, there’s been a paradigm shift in how we envision our built environment, from auto-oriented places for fast cars with no regard for public safety, social equity or climate change towards smaller-scale concepts like the walkable, 15-minute city, largely due to years of advocacy from Jane Jacobs, John Sewell and other urban critics. It took us a long time for us to get here. Let’s not undo it.