The 15 minute city scam

Recently a new term has made it into the main stream. It’s called the 15 minute city. The concept is simple enough. People living in an idyllic area where travel is easy, a maximum of 15 minutes walk or bicycle ride. As we will see however, the numbers simply do not stack up. The 15 minute city is a scam which precludes private home ownership, and that’s at best.

We will refer to illustrations posted on my chat group and other sources. First it needs to be said that the media appears to adore this concept. Momentum Mag for instance posts a glowing review of the concept without examining the claims. (1) This is typical of what we see in the media, who are too lazy to research topics the way they should.

An examination of the numbers, using real figures, easily demonstrates that this is a scam which cannot work as advertised. Refer to the example at (2). The illustration shows anyone leaving the center of a circle on bicycle, on foot or electric vehicle and shows the approximate travel time. What the example fails to anticipate however is that people are not going to originate from the center of a circle. Rather their living quarters would exist over an area at least 1 mile wide.

The world bank defines a city as having at least 50,000 inhabitants, using a complex formula. (3) For our purposes we will use that figure in our calculations. I have placed illustrations on my chat group for reference. (4) The numbers that we need to use here is average walking speed of adults, about 3 MPH (5), and approximate size of an acre, about 208.71 feet per side. I divided up the 1 mile square into half acre lots and added 50 feet between them for access roads, power lines and such. The answer works out as such: 5280 (feet per mile) divided by 208.71*2 +50. This figure works out to 11 plots on each side of the road, for a total of 22 half acre lots going one way. Side by side, there could be 50 of these lots in a mile, or 1100 small homes in our hypothetical square mile. Averaging a family of four, therefore, the population would be a small 4400 people, far less than the definition of a city with 50,000 people.

We can easily see then that private home ownership would have to be excluded. The viewer is forced to assume that we are talking about apartments, and many of them. Referring to my illustration 3, 8 buildings would have to house 6250 people each. Of course that number is 5000 for 10 buildings. They would practically be stacked on top of one another. Perhaps what is in mind for the people is 5 by 5 boxes, or barracks similar to those on board a navy ship?

Now we will look at transportation. If someone lives near a business, in our example located on the the edges of our hypothetical square mile, then they will be much better off. However, the walk across our square is not going to be short. Of course it will be longer if the business is diagonally across, and at 3 MPH one mile actually translates into 20 minutes. Going at a diagonal, if this is possible, it may take half an hour or more to walk that distance. That’s in good weather.

Imagine if you will a young mother with a two children, three and four years old respectively. She has to walk all the way across the residential area (maybe from a small apartment on the tenth floor). It is 10 degrees out, and the freezing wind whips at her and her kids as they walk all the way across the residential area to the grocery store. She has to dodge snowdrifts and her children are crying, but she can’t leave them alone. After reaching the store, she gets her groceries and they head back. She has three bags of groceries and her crying children at her side. They are not allowed to have a car because cars take up too much space. The wind is terrible and they are all freezing, and then one of the environmentally safe paper bags rips. An hour later they reach their apartment building, freezing and with frostbite.

This is a potential scenario and there are plenty more to choose from. There is no getting around the math, or the weather. This does not even take into account that businesses locate based on demographics and other factors, and not at the whim of politicians.

You can fudge the numbers, and try to redesign things, true enough. But packing people like sardines in an area simply won’t work. Then the question arises of who is going to build the high rise apartment buildings, and who and how someone will be able to persuade all those people to move into the apartments, that by themselves might take 15 minutes or more just to reach the ground floor.

I have dealt with math here, not conspiracy theories. But it did not take the media long to start attacking those of use who question this. Wired magazine was quick to attack so-called conspiracy theorists, who are people questioning this. (6) Like so many others, Wired magazine paints a blissful portrait of these “cities” which in reality and at best a scam.



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