Will the "15-minute city" require residents to carry permits for more than 15 minutes of travel, track "in real time" their carbon footprints and block violators of city rules from accessing "daily activities"? No, that's not true: The 15-minute city, an urban model in which everyone living in a city would be within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of essential services, is designed to improve access to goods and services and make cities more sustainable, according to the professor who coined the term. Nothing in the model suggests that people would be restricted or confined to their neighborhoods.
The claim about 15-minute cities' supposed digital authoritarianism appeared in a video (archived here) posted on Instagram on February 20, 2023. In the video, an unidentified woman alleged:
According to the World Economic Forum website, as of May 2023, 36 countries worldwide will have smart city governance initiatives -- surveillance monitoring, analysis-reporting technology. You'll have a digital ID that will track in real time your shopping, your entertainment, your activities and your carbon footprint. You'll also have a 15-minute travel limit without a permit -- a permit to travel. And if you exceed any of these things, you'll be denied access to daily activities.
This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of the writing of this fact check:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Feb 23 12:11:08 2023 UTC)
The woman's comment about a "15-minute travel limit" appears to refer to the 15-minute city, which is the idea that everyone living in a city should be within a 15-minute walk or bike ride to all necessary services. The term was coined by Carlos Moreno, an associate professor at France's IAE Paris-Sorbonne Business School, who won an Obel Award in 2021 for the design. In a video produced for that award, Moreno defined the 15-minute city concept as follows:
The 15-minute city is an urban model that invites us to think of the city in new ways. First, neighborhoods must be designed so that everyone has access to all essential human needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride ... Second, the rhythm of the city should follow humans, not cars.
You can watch his full comments below:
Part of the motivation behind the 15-minute city is to cut air pollution. Around the 2:50-mark in the video, Moreno adds:
If more cities become 15-minute cities, it will help reduce our global carbon footprint and create a more resilient and healthier planet for the coming generations.
But he does not suggest -- nor is there anything in the model to suggest -- that individuals' movement would be restricted.
Lead Stories contacted Moreno to ask about the post's claim. We also emailed the World Economic Forum (WEF), which was mentioned in the video on Instagram. If we receive responses, we will update this fact check accordingly.
In June 2022, the WEF posted an update that announced that, as of May 2022, its G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance, a group of private-public-non-profit supporters of smart-city technologies, was "leading smart city governance initiatives in more than 36 cities around the world." Although the woman in the video on Instagram cites May 2023, rather than May 2022, she appeared to be talking about that update.
Her characterization of the WEF website does not match what it says, however. The update makes no mention of a digital ID that would track a person's carbon footprint in real time, nor is there any talk of a 15-minute travel limit.
The claim in the post on Instagram resembles a recent claim that the city council in the British city of Oxford had passed a traffic-filter plan that would confine residents to their neighborhoods. Lead Stories established in January 2023, that that was not true.
The Oxford claim misrepresented and conflated two proposals. One was a plan to install traffic filters; the other was a proposal meant to ensure residents have all the critically necessary services they need within a 15-minute walk of their homes. Neither proposal restricts residents to their local areas, according to a joint statement from Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council.