Online conspiracy theories about Edmonton’s ‘15-minute city’ plan: ‘Absolute nonsense’

How does a city prepare for population growth? Understanding Edmonton’s District Plan.

Edmonton’s district plan is about how the city is preparing for population growth. But what exactly does it mean to be a “15-minute city?”

The urban plan aims to give residents access to most of what they need within 15 minutes from their home.

“Employment, entertainment, recreation and retail amenities, within 15 minutes of your front door,” said Ward pihêsiwin councillor Tim Cartmell.

Cartmell says some Edmontonians, like himself, already live in districts that have most of what you need within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. But he points to neighbourhoods like Windermere in his ward as still lacking some key amenities.

“You can send your kid on their bike down to the splash pad, or skateboard park,” said Cartmell. “Which you cannot do in Windermere right now because they don’t exist.”

The plan has been in the works since 2020, as part of the City Plan, and is anticipated to be back before council this summer.

graphic design image of person riding bicycle

Edmonton’s “City Plan” showing concept image for 15-minute city. (Credit: City of Edmonton)

Online conspiracy theories 

But the urban planning initiative has recently been getting negative attention online, with a baseless claim that this is an attempt to lock people in their neighbourhoods.

“Whoever is suggesting that must really be entertaining themselves with how many people they’ve gotten to bite, because it’s absolute nonsense,” said Cartmell.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi expects the majority of Edmontonians “are a very smart and sophisticated people who will not believe this conspiracy theory being promoted online.”

Many of those sharing the conspiracy theory online include a picture of a map showing districts in Canterbury, U.K., with captions often purporting it as Edmonton with a plan to limit movements between districts.

The Oxfordshire County Council in the U.K. needed to put out a statement on the matter after staff and councillors were subject to “abuse due to inaccurate information.”

While they do have a plan to limit traffic on smaller roads between districts during rush hour, they stress there is no plan to limit people from leaving their communities.

WATCH: Oxfordshire County Council dispels conspiracy theories

‘It’s not locking people down’

The director of the University of Alberta’s School of Urban and Regional Planning says the idea behind 15-minute city plans is about giving residents more options.

When asked if there was any basis to it being a plan to lock people close to home, Sandeep Agrawal said it’s all about bringing “facilities closer to people, it’s not locking people down. It’s actually about providing better connectivity.”

Agrawal stresses the “idea is not new, but the naming is new, and it is catchy, and it makes sense for the average person.”

When it comes to implementing the plan, Agrawal says it’s unlikely there will be any notable change overnight, but rather years into the future in making all parts of the city more livable.

Mayor Sohi says he looks forward to continuing to enjoy “the great amenities in every neighbourhood. Edmonton is one city and we want people to enjoy that.”

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