When Planning Issues Become ‘Culture Wars’

‘Commonsense’ urbanism projects are being painted by opponents as sinister plots to limit movement and erode property rights.

1 minute read

June 1, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of historic Oxford, England street with old buildings and red double-decker bus

A ‘15-minute city’ plan in Oxford, England drew vocal criticism from conspiracy theorists falsely calling the plan part of a global authoritarian plot. | Sergii Figurnyi / Oxford, England

The conspiracy mindset fueling many of today’s “culture wars” has finally come for urban planning ideas, writes Skip Descant in Governing.

Alex Roy, co-founder of mobility consultancy Johnson & Roy and a host on the Autonocast podcast, calls out a “concerted effort against new mobility,” conducted largely on Twitter, that has attacked seemingly innocuous concepts like the 15-minute city and new mobility. 

For Roy, “That mobility in cities should become politicized in America should come as no huge surprise.” In fact, Roy says “In the history of mobility, ‘every mode that arrived became politicized. It became the darling of the left, or the right.’” 

Descant acknowledges it’s “easy to dismiss the chatter on Twitter and conservative media as simply white noise,” but the belief in dark global conspiracies that seek to gut property rights and limit movement is dangerous to advancing solutions to urban problems. “Given the many challenges facing cities, ranging from changing commuter patterns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, shifts in how we shop, and how we work, the problems facing cities are real and will require solutions rather than growing political divisions.” 

Sunday, May 28, 2023 in Governing

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