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The removal of our Freedoms

LTN’S, The World Economic Forum, 15 Minute Cities

Lower Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN’s) or “mini-Hollands;” are not about climate, nor active travel, but money garnered in fines, taxes, and social exclusion.

Displaced traffic affects the health of those living on sacrificial roads, as vehicles do not evaporate, nor do emissions go away. They in fact increase due to traffic jams and the extra miles travelled.

Emergency services are held up, a fact that is disputed by the proponents of these schemes, as is increase in crime and drug dealing which is plain for all to see.

Councils and the Government are content to ignore the misery of thousands of people now being poisoned by fumes from vehicles bottlenecked on roads never meant to carry them. We are told that this is something that must be accepted to save the planet.

The schemes being enacted are not about any lofty aspiration, but to satisfy the gentrifying zealots who have moved into areas, where they can afford properties, unlike Hampstead, Pimlico, or Islington, which are beyond their reach.

Apart from wishing to have roads closed, enabling them to live on quiet streets, many are part of a very strange cycling cult which has recently appeared.

It is astonishing to see the plans for Hackney and Lewisham, Haringey and Enfield, Oxford, and Bath, to name but a few places where current administrations’, have adopted stances akin to that of a certain leader in Germany in the 1930’s. Or perhaps the man in the Kremlin, who has returned Russia to the times of his hero Stalin.

Are there “Dark Forces” at work as we see Manna, or rather ideology from on high, being handed down to the masses? Are we witnessing the final arrival of the world of Orwell’s nightmare vison of 1984?

After campaigning for several years, for a sane approach to emissions and vehicles in my neighbourhood and other areas of London, it became obvious that there was something more to this than some not very bright Councils and some very noisy cyclists.

Enter the World Economic Forum (WEF) which is an unelected “Independent” body of primarily big businesses established in 1971 as the European Management Forum, which invited roughly 400 of Europe’s top CEOs to promote American forms of business management. Created by Klaus Schwab, a Swiss national who studied in the U.S. and who still heads the event today, the Forum changed its name in 1987 to the World Economic Forum after growing into an annual get together of global elites who promoted and profited off the expansion of "global markets." It is the gathering place for the titans of corporate and financial power.

The American contact whom Schwab was influenced by to found the WEF was Kissinger. It seems though that the idea might have sprung originally from the CIA.

In 2023, the World Economic Forum’s main purpose is to function as a socialising institution for the emerging global elite, globalisation’s "Mafiocracy" of bankers, industrialists, oligarchs, technocrats, and politicians. They promote common ideas and serve common interests: their own.

I have borrowed some words from Andrew Marshall, whose article is cited at the end, but I have read many others about the WEF, and the take home message is the same. Unelected, self-serving, very rich predominately male club who seem intent on controlling the earth; but the only thing they are really intent on saving is their own wealth.

Their refined take on shafting the world, all seems miles, or kilometres, away from an Ambulance stuck on an LTN on a London Street, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. The WEF, is all about global control of the masses, and we are the masses.

In 2018 the WEF announced that nobody should own a car and told the world that by 2030:

"You'll own nothing and be happy and "Meat will be a special treat"

They also promote the 15 Minute City (15MC) so I wonder if, “You won’t go anywhere unless we let you,” will be yet another mantra.

On the face of it, having everything on your doorstep, seems a great idea, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t.

For starters how are we going to miraculously have health, education, workplaces, all our food requirements, builders, bakers, candle stick makers etc…with in 15 minute-walk – or cycle- never forget the cycle.

If plans for this craziness in the town of Oxford go ahead, residents will also have to have passes to leave their area and only for certain periods of time. There is a word for this, a Ghetto.

So, once nobody owns a private car, how best to placate us? Convince us that this wholesale stealing of our freedom of movement is a positive thing? What else is on offer?

I haven’t really seen any attempt in the literature about a global look at public transport systems that are sustainable, except that we should all get on, yes, a bicycle.

The thing missing in ALL these peregrinations is any concept of what happens to the disabled, elderly those with large families, small businesses etc… how do they function in this nirvana, how do they get about?

Back to the 15MC, the brainchild in 2016 of Carlos Moreno a Colombian, now living in Paris. A technical man, who has worked on AI and a plethora of other things before becoming an “urbanist”. In 2021 his concept took traction because of Covid, when working from home was the norm, for the predominately affluent I would say.

During that awful time though, many, many people in many avenues of life had to commute and go to work. Risking their lives to keep those fortunate enough to be able to survive economically at home, alive. Who drove the delivery vans? Who staffed the ICU’s, drove the buses, harvested the crops? Not the members of the WEF, or Carlos Moreno.

There is a lot to admire about the concept, communities are the heartbeat of humanity and Cities can be soul destroying places and how often has one thought that a more “village” approach might help life be kinder?

However, if you read some of the articles at the bottom of this and the many others you will undoubtedly find, this concept, like LTN’s favours the affluent. No if, no buts.

What Professor Moreno sees the 15MC as is:

A ‘social circularity for living’ is ‘an urban and territorial ontology’ based on six essential functions: to live in good housing, to work without a long commute, to reach supplies and services via a short route, and to access health care, education and ‘cultural entitlement’ locally, within a reduced perimeter, accessed by low carbon mobilities: 15 minutes on foot or bike in a compact, high-density zone.

Clear, not really. A dream, an aspiration, yes. Achievable, with investment in cheap, sustainable, reliable public transport everywhere, maybe.

The WEF however, really like his idea and promotes it. The Parisian Mayor Hidalgo, and others around the globe are adopting parts of his ideas into running their cities, with varying degrees of success. The changes also garner substantial levels of criticism and unease at echoes of other regimes and the social exclusion and apartheid the cells encourage.

Moreno says he is influenced by Jane Jacobs, whose antipathy to Robert Moses modernisation program in New York, is well known. A program which saw the destruction of many well-established neighbourhoods.

Isn’t he missing the point? Jacobs began by trying to preserve communities that had grown up organically, and her approach to design is very different to that which we are currently seeing.

For as she says:

Conflict arises when distant experts, developers, and city hall planners come up with schemes in which that local wisdom has not been brought to bear at the beginning of the process. Such schemes usually show little respect for the nature and built form of the community and then are presented at “public” forums, in what is deceptively called a public process. At that point, the plans are tinkered with and maybe an “amenities” package is added (a form of bribery to ensure passage even if inappropriate to the place). But the input of local stakeholders is non-existent in the beginning and minimal at the end. This is when the total transformation and, often, replacement of a community occurs, not its genuine regeneration.

When I read this I found myself thinking about the 15MC, and I am reminded of the post-war building of the Council Estates and the New Towns in the UK and the frequent disasters they were, and some still are.

In short, it’s all very well to sit in your study in the Sorbonne and come up with theories, but what about the lives you are playing with?

I was an academic, a different field its true, but it’s all too easy to theorise away and forget that you are one person, or a small group, whose ideas might not be the best thing since sliced bread and might do more harm than good?

I am no car fanatic, I have a car, but suspect at my age it will be the last one I shall own. I am very alert however to the discrimination embedded in the desire to rid us all our freedom of movement on the road; particularly as the source is a group of people I never voted for.

As for those we did vote for, with their manipulated data, lies and bullying, I say shame on you. I say shame on Sadiq Khan. I say shame on the Council’s around the country who are not listening to their electorate. One size does not fit all, it never has, it never will.

Do we need change? Of course. Using the little people as your cash cow Mr Khan, and fodder for unsubstantiated ideas of societal control Cllrs, is lazy and unprofessional.

The Labour Party in the UK who is at the forefront of much of this, needs to take a long hard look at itself. You no longer appear to care for the Working Class whom you were founded to support. Many of us wonder who you do support?

In London at least it no longer is the small business owners, the aforementioned vulnerable folk and let’s be frank people of colour and other ethnicities whom you support, but the white middle classes.

Communities are complex things, to serve solely a selective tranche of individuals within them smacks of regimes we hoped not to encounter ever again. How wrong we were.



Jane Jacobs

Linda Wilkinson is a London based writer and community activist.

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