Appearing in France in 2015, the principle of the "Quarter-hour City" is simple: ensure the presence of all essential services, such as shops, parks or hospitals, within a 15-minute walk or bike from the homes of city dwellers.
Since the Covid pandemic, the concept, imagined by the Franco-Colombian academic Carlos Moreno, has been successfully exported around the world.
Cities like Paris, Melbourne or Copenhagen claim it to justify the reorganization of certain districts, supposed to become more pleasant to live in and less dependent on the car, but also to limit pollution and global warming.
But, as at the time of the sanitary confinements against Covid-19, the political debate on the relevance of these measures has turned on social networks into suspicious theories on the origin and the real intentions that this vision would hide.
On TikTok, the first results of the search "City of the quarter-hour" mainly present critical videos, where it is claimed in particular that the new traffic plans are intended to limit the freedom of movement of the inhabitants who in the long term will be punished by fines if they leave their neighborhood.
On Twitter, in English, the hashtag #15minuteprisons appeared in third position behind #15minutecities and #15minutecity.
For having imagined the concept, Carlos Moreno, professor at the Sorbonne, was himself the target of many direct insults, he confided to AFP.
"There was never any question of restrictive proposals, but on the contrary of developing additional opportunities: more choice, more services, more desire to evolve in one's neighborhood, while having the choice to go wherever we want," he defends himself.
Extrapolations about decisions made in Oxford, England, or Edmonton, in the Canadian state of Alberta, were recently debunked by AFP. But the claims have resurfaced in various languages, including English, French and Portuguese.
"You can't leave a quarter-hour +City whenever you want," says a man in a video about Edmonton's new traffic plan, viewed more than 59.000 times on Facebook.
“City walls, restrictions, zones, will not be used to keep people out, they will be used to lock everyone in,” he continues.
A prophecy brushed aside by Sandeep Agrawal, an urban planner from the University of Alberta: "the device aims to provide better connections with the rest of the city", by improving public transport, he declared to the AFP.
"This planning is an ongoing process, which involves consultation with citizens at the various stages of its development," he added.
In Oxford, councilors have reported being the target of abuse over a plan to limit car traffic on bus routes during rush hour.
An article, which incorrectly claimed that residents would be “confined to their neighborhood and should ask permission to leave, all this to supposedly + save the planet +”, was widely relayed.
A spokesperson for the municipal council denied these assertions to AFP. Liam Walker, an elected Conservative from the opposition, himself opposed to this experiment, also denounced on Twitter assertions "totally false".
"In the case of Edmonton, Canterbury or Oxford, each of these criticisms is a distortion of the concept through the prism of an extremist vision with only + arguments + lies, manipulations, insults", regrets Carlos Moreno.
Its concept has won over the C40 group, which brings together major cities fighting against global warming, as well as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum. Usual targets of many viral deformities, frequently checked and corrected by the media.
The concept is still hotly debated. Among its moderate detractors, Jay Pitter, a professor of urban planning based in Toronto (Canada), argues that this European model cannot be transposed to North American cities. And that it could even aggravate inequalities by accentuating the gentrification of city centers.