Fact check: False claim Ohio train was derailed to push 15-minute cities plan

Train derailment in Ohio

The claim: Ohio train was derailed intentionally to push 15-minute city plan

A Feb. 18 Instagram post (direct link, archived link) makes a serious allegation about the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3.

“What better way to usher rural off grid folks who have no dependency on the system into their 15 minute cities (than) by making their environment (un)inhabitable through deliberate poisoning of their water and air,” reads the text in the post. “Problem - Reaction - Solution. OHIO.”

The post garnered more than 200 likes in a month.

Other versions of this claim have been circulating on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Telegram and Truth Social.

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Our rating: False

There’s no evidence the train derailment in East Palestine was deliberate. A spokesperson for Cleveland mayor Justin Bibb said the posts distort the city’s plan to adopt elements of the 15-minute cities framework.

No evidence train derailment in East Palestine was intentional

On Feb. 3, a train operated by Norfolk Southern was traveling to Pennsylvania when multiple rail cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Some of the derailed cars contained hazardous materials, prompting authorities to evacuate residents due to the threat of a possible explosion.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the derailment, has found "no indication" it was intentional, spokesperson Keith Holloway said in an email to USA TODAY. The safety board announced in their preliminary report on Feb. 23 that a mechanical issue with a rail car axle was the reason for the derailment.

Patrick Ray, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Cincinnati, previously told USA TODAY it's nonsense to assert the railway disaster was planned in any fashion.

Fact check: Baseless claim that Ohio train derailment was a 'false flag' operation

More than two dozen lawsuits have been filed against Norfolk Southern after the derailment for alleged negligence as of March 17.

Posts misconstrue Cleveland’s 15-minute cities plan

The posts reference Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s plan to turn Cleveland into a 15-minute city in order to improve citizens’ access to essential services like grocery stores and green spaces.

Some of the posts also claim the 15-minute city plan would imprison Cleveland residents and subject citizens to extreme surveillance.

But City of Cleveland spokesperson Sarah Johnson told USA TODAY the claims linking the 15-minute cities plan to the derailment are false. Furthermore, the posts do not accurately represent the plan’s goals, she said in an email.

The goal of Bibb’s 15-minute cities plan “is to provide convenient and equitable access to necessities like healthcare, schools, grocery stores, jobs and greenspace – all leading to opportunity and prosperity for residents,” said Johnson.

More: Ohio train derailment fact check: What's true and what's false?

USA TODAY has debunked an array of claims that mischaracterize the nature of 15-minute city plans around the world, including posts about Ottawa, Scotland, Oxforshire and the U.N.’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Carlos Moreno, the creator of the "15-minute cities" concept, previously told USA TODAY the notion that 15-minute cities will restrict or confine residents to their neighborhoods is false. They are built around the idea that all residents of a city should be able to access all essential services they need within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the posts for comment.

The AFP also debunked this claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Ohio train derailment not linked to 15-minute city plan