The 15-Minute City: Where Urban Planning Meets Conspiracy Theories

“First, the rhythm of the city should follow humans, not cars,” he said. “Second, each square meter should serve many different purposes. Finally, neighborhoods should be designed so that we can live, work and thrive in them without having to constantly commute elsewhere.”

It’s that first part — a focus on people, rather than cars — that has driven some recent pushback, as 15-minute cities replace Covid lockdowns and mask-wearing as the latest perceived threat to personal freedoms, at least among some people.

Jordan B. Peterson, the psychologist and commentator who is widely critical of the modern left and runs a popular YouTube channel, has warned of “idiot tyrannical bureaucrats” deciding where people can drive and said 15-minute cities “are just another fad hijacked by wannabe authoritarians.”

Last month on Twitter, Mr. Peterson pointed to a report from C40 Cities, a group of 96 cities around the world working to mitigate the effects of climate change, that said “any city where a private vehicle is necessary to get around is likely to be fundamentally unequal.”

The concept of 15-minute cities has also been caught up in broader conspiracy theories about efforts to remake society as the world emerges from the pandemic. The focus of many of those theories is an effort by the World Economic Forum called “The Great Reset.”

That initiative began in 2020, with the help of a cinematic video narrated by the then-Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, who called for “bold and imaginative action” in pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable future.

But the far-reaching, if vague, plan from the group, a nongovernmental organization best known for its annual meeting of business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, soon became fodder for concerns — some more reasonable than others — about an unelected global elite’s using the pandemic to reorder life as we know it.

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