The concept of “15-minute cities” or “smart cities” has recently gained significant online attention.
However, it has also sparked controversies with critics claiming that these cities would lead to increased isolation, impose fines for crossing neighborhood boundaries, compromise privacy through surveillance, and trap citizens in a prison-like environment.
Last year, leaders proposed to turn Paris, France into a 15-minute city. But the opposition to the concept of 15-minute cities intensified when the Oxford City Council revealed its intention to introduce a plan that aims to ensure that all essential household items and living necessities like parks, stores, hospitals, and more are reachable within a 15-minute walk or bicycle ride in the British city, which would be divided into multiple 15-minute neighborhoods. Sounds like something from dystopian fiction, right?
To reduce traffic congestion and support Oxford’s efforts towards achieving Net Zero climate goals, driving outside of one’s designated district would be discouraged. Vehicle monitoring cameras equipped with number plate recognition technology will enforce the policy by monitoring cars on specific roads and potentially issuing fines to violators without proper permits.
There is talk online that in these 15-minute cities, people’s mobility will be greatly limited. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, individuals may only be allowed to drive to certain destinations at designated times.
Reportedly, residents are limited to the specified number of car trips outside of their 15-minute city per year. Exceeding this limit will result in a fine. City leaders closely monitor and regulate all movements through the use of smartphone tracking and facial recognition technology.
Opponents of 15-minute cities claim that they will trap residents within their neighborhoods, granting more power to leaders over their daily lives.
On the other hand, proponents argue that the concept will alleviate traffic problems, potentially even leading to the phasing out of cars as residents can easily access all their daily necessities within their local vicinity.
Some have compared 15-minute cities to sheep pens for humans. Supposedly, they would keep humans content and isolated, metaphorically grazing on their own patch of grass while their sheepherders keep them in line.