You have no doubt heard of 15-minute cities.
Currently the favorite of urban planners, experiments in redesigning cities to ensure that everything a person needs to live an elite-approved life is within 15 minutes of travel time–preferably using solely human-powered travel means such as walking or riding a bike.
The idea is to phase the use of cars out of our lives, reduce carbon emissions, and of course ensure that we are easily monitored and controlled by the powers that be. Surveillance is of course necessary to ensure that people don’t break the rules–typically by exiting the Zone in which one is supposed to live and work.
It’s a bit more complicated than that, but this is the basic idea. I’ve written about it, and Beege has a scorcher of an essay about it and the overarching C40 plan that lots of cities in the US and Europe have signed on to.
— James Lindsay, enraged the male hags (@ConceptualJames) November 21, 2023
So where’s the blue-on-blue violence about to erupt?
Well, it turns out that a L:eftist has discovered that 15-minute cities are built on “ableist” presumptions, which of course is a fatal flaw.
No doubt this is true, although I would put it less in terms of the oppressor-oppressed matrix of the abled and the disabled, and more in the obvious elite-prole axis, which after all was the whole point of the 15-minute city exercise in the first place.
Keep the proles in their place–literally, in this case. You can rest assured that the truly wealthy won’t be limiting their travel to within 15 minutes of home. Davos is a bit far on that scale.
I think about planning, cities and transportation through a critical ableist and disability studies lens. My lived experience as a parent of a disabled child also informs my research on urban accessibility.
When considering the 15-minute city, I think about the relationship between ableism — the practices and abilities considered normative by society and the social model of disability. The social model of disability — one of several frameworks — is the idea that disability is produced by discriminatory barriers in society. Ableism produces disability.
The 15-minute city relies on residents’ abilities to walk and bike. This raises several questions: What if a resident’s body doesn’t walk or bike in what is considered a normative sense? What if someone uses a mobility device or moves at a slower pace? What if a resident requires public or school transportation vehicles to be adapted?
There is no universality to 15 minutes spent in any city. Marginalized people, for example, are more likely to be harassed or over-policed.
“Lived experience.” Gotta love it. Those words always precede a complaint about something.
Now I hate 15-minute cities as much as the next guy, and I agree that they don’t fit the needs of disabled people and that is important. But my objection to the idea is much simpler: screw you guys and your need to tell everybody else how to live! It’s none of these guys’ business how often I want to take a drive and where I choose to go.
What we have here is an ideological standoff–two competing Leftist frameworks fighting it out for supremacy. On the one hand, you have the lure of social control and carbon reduction, and on the other hand, you have the oppressor-oppressed matrix making its claims.
Let’s hope they both lose in this battle.
We reshape cities to accommodate disabled people not because they are oppressed by Ableists, but because it is the right thing to do and we can now afford to do it. But we don’t design the universe or even our cities solely for their benefit. As for the urbanists–screw them. They are the ones who keep trying to restrict our freedoms and play SimCity with our lives.
Let us be.