The 15-minute city concept, pioneered by French-Colombian professor Carlos Moreno at the Paris COP21 climate summit in 2015, is gaining traction in Canada, with its promise of areas where a 15-minute bike ride or walk would provide access to all necessary amenities. Urbanist Dan Luscher promotes the idea on 15minutecity.com, but acknowledges its inherent curtailment of free travel and free markets. The idea has been put into practice in Oxford, England, with the introduction of three low-traffic districts in 2022, and the implementation of six more in 2024. These districts will be monitored by cameras that will detect vehicles passing through roads with time restrictions and issue fines for violations. The City of Edmonton is also in the process of implementing the 15-minute city approach, with 15 districts covering the entire city. However, the idea has been met with backlash from citizens who feel that it is a threat to freedom and could lead to scenarios of regulation and control. Douglas Farrow, an ethics professor at McGill University, believes that the concept doesn’t make sense from an environmental or economic standpoint and that it is viable for political tyranny. This is echoed by the Rejecting the 15 Minute City Facebook group, which has grown to around 11,000 members since its launch in February. The group’s admin Branden Witteveen believes that the 15-minute city could lead to a world where privacy, freedom of speech, expression, and travel are almost not allowed and everything is service-based. On the other hand, proponents of the concept argue that it is about efficiency and bringing amenities closer, and that it does not restrict people’s movements. Despite this, the dystopian characterizations of the 15-minute city have led to a reaction from its proponents. As the concept continues to be adopted in urban centres across Canada, people are being forced to take sides in the debate.
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