A group of protesters gathered at the RancheHouse before the State of Cochrane address on Feb. 9 to voice concerns about what they felt was an impending loss of their personal freedoms.
Ostensibly, their demonstration was over the idea of “15-Minute Cities” – a philosophy they argued (without evidence) was being pushed on residents in Cochrane.
The concept of a 15-Minute City is to re-design urban planning around the local availability of amenities – the idea that every person's daily needs should be able to be fulfilled within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. Essentially, the notion is to improve a city’s walkability and reduce residents’ dependence on their vehicles, so they could walk instead of drive to the grocery store, barber's shop, local library branch, etc.
One of the picketers, who was from Ontario, informed The Eagle that the Town of Cochrane was pursuing the objective of becoming a 15-Minute City, and that they must be stopped. When informed the municipality was not entertaining the concept, (it hasn’t been brought up by council in the last year), the protester insisted they were. And even if they weren’t, she warned it was just a matter of time.
The fact is, the Town of Cochrane isn’t trying to become a ’15-minute City,’ so the protest on Feb. 9 was a moot point. Representatives from the Town posted on Facebook that day (in response to the local protest) that as a small-ish town, Cochrane already provides residents with nearby access to most local amenities. Becoming a 15-minute city would be redundant, at best.
"We understand that some larger urban centres are considering urban plans which aim to give residents access to most of what they need within 15 minutes from their home," the Town stated. "This includes access to grocery, recreation, retail, employment and entertainment amenities.
"Cochrane does not have any plans to adopt the ‘15-minute city’ concept, as most residents can already access all main services within a 15-minute drive."
When this messaging was pointed out to the picketer our reporter interviewed, she then claimed there was a conspiracy afoot, as evidenced by the fact the demonstrators’ phone lines were recently down. She argued politicians were in cahoots with the phone companies to try and silence the protest. It was an absurd interview, to say the least.
But it is noteworthy that the protest in Cochrane wasn’t the only demonstration against 15-minute cities in recent weeks. Similar protests have happened throughout Alberta and Canada – and even other countries – with picketers warning that governments will use this apparently communist, police-state concept to restrict people’s freedom of movement, track their whereabouts, and create a dystopian future where no one would be allowed to drive cars.
Or, they argued, governments would use the 15-Minute City concept to justify the creation of hospitals or other publicly supported amenities in every “district” of a particular community, causing taxes to skyrocket.
We encourage our readers to use their judgment when coming across these protests in the future.