Urban Green Tourism and the '15-minute City'

I Visited Auburn, New York, a Potential '15-minute City'

By Anna Krejci

A trendy subject of discussion now among urban planners and city leaders is how to become the newest “15-minute city,” a designation that would be achieved when all residents can walk, bicycle, drive or take public transportation to places that meet all their essential needs in no more than 15 minutes.

It is being discussed to lower carbon emissions, which could only help us in confronting the massive climate change challenges we face.  It is also discussed as an improvement to the quality of life.  Less time commuting in cars on crowded roads sounds great to me!  In addition, I think 15-minute cities can become attractive tourist destinations.  Urban green tourists might enjoy visiting a 15-minute city because, in my opinion, it is so much more pleasurable to walk or take public transportation to places as a tourist.  Navigation becomes more manageable.  You can see more sites in less time.  On principle, you would be supporting a city that is working with the environment.

It is no wonder that a major city like Cleveland, Ohio is studying how to become a 15-minute city. Cleveland’s mayor, Justin Bibb, announced his goal and in July 2023, the city introduced legislation to revitalize areas along high regularity public transit lines, those bus and rail lines that have stops in 15-minute intervals.  New businesses offering services would go into places that are now abandoned.   The city is also looking for a consultant to create its Citywide Mobility Plan to help all people get around town without cars in better ways.  To be sure, the motives are for improving life for residents.  I hope city leaders realize how good this could be for tourism as well.

I visited Auburn, New York years ago.  It is now identified as a place that has the potential to be a wonderful 15-minute city!  According to the National League of Cities website, Auburn’s present city layout is a 15-minute radius for bicyclists, so with the geography as such and probably with some more improvement, it would be poised to become a true, 15-minute city.  When I visited Auburn, I ate at the Prison City Pub and Brewery, a popular restaurant in a city that does have a prison right downtown – in case you wondered - and I was within a 6-minute walk to Trip Advisor’s top-rated attraction, the Seward House Museum.  William Henry Seward was secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln during the U.S. Civil War and led the effort on acquiring the land of present-day Alaska under the Andrew Johnson administration in 1867, according to the museum’s website.  He had an interesting life for other reasons, too, which I learned when I visited the museum.  I could have walked to the museum after lunch on a nice day.  I was so happy to read that Auburn was being discussed in the context of 15-minute cities.

As a society, I hope we can find ways to be tourists in environmentally responsible ways.  I read about urban green tourism in a paper written by Marion Joppe of Ryerson Polytechnic University and Rachel Dodds from the Green Tourism Association.  They are based in Toronto, Canada. The paper, which is about 20 years old, is called “Urban Green Tourism: Applying ecotourism principles to the city,” and they define urban green tourism as, quoted directly below:

Urban green tourism, as defined by the members of the association, is composed of four attributes: Environmental responsibility – protecting, conserving, and/or enhancing nature and the physical environment to ensure the long-term health of the life-sustaining ecosystem; Local economic vitality – Supporting local economies, businesses and communities to ensure economic vitality and sustainability; Cultural sensitivity – Respecting and appreciating cultures and cultural diversity so as to ensure the continued well-being of local or host cultures; and Experiential richness – Providing enriching and satisfying experiences through active, personal and meaningful participation in, and involvement with, nature, people, places and/or cultures.

From my own layperson point of view, I think urban green tourism goes well with the 15-minute city concept.  Cleveland can seek its 15-minutes of fame by touting its own potential as a 15-minute city.  I wholeheartedly support the idea of making cities accessible by more modes of travel and creating neighborhoods where residents can find all they need within a 15-minute commute.  As tourists, the choices we make in travel destinations depend on a lot, but from my perspective, this is an exciting trend.  I hope cities can adapt, and I hope they allow for tourism in the planning.  I think it would mean more opportunities – including more access to recreational features – for everyone.


A Note About Auburn, New York

According to Google Maps, Auburn, New York is about a 5-hour car ride from Cleveland, Ohio.  It is part of the Finger Lake region of New York.


Works Cited

“Cleveland takes big steps toward Mayor Bibb’s vision for a 15-minute city.” City of Cleveland. 17 July, 2023. https://mayor.clevelandohio.gov/cleveland-takes-big-steps-toward-mayor-bibbs-vision-15-minute-city#:~:text=Monday%2C%20July%2017%2C%202023%20%E2%80%94,bike%20ride%2C%20or%20transit%20trip.

Funk, Kyle and Julia Glickman. “Exploring the 15-minute City Concept and Its Potential for Communities of All Sizes.” National League of Cities, 2023,  https://www.nlc.org/article/2023/06/13/exploring-the-15-minute-city-concept-and-its-potential-for-communities-of-all-sizes/

Joppe, Marion, and Rachel Dodds, “Urban Green Tourism: Applying ecotourism principles to the city.” Travel and Tourism Research Association – Canada Chapter, Toronto, 4-6, Oct. 1998, pp. 33-39. Chicago State University, https://www.csu.edu/cerc/researchreports/documents/UrbanGreenTourism1998.pdf

“William Henry Seward.” Seward House Museum, 2023, https://sewardhouse.org/history/william-henry-seward