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Traffic-calming pioneer Ben Hamilton-Baillie dies


Tributes have been paid to shared road space trailblazer Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who has died of cancer aged 63

The influential urban design consultant, and keen pedestrian and cyclist safety exponent, studied architecture at the University of Cambridge in the 1970s.

He spent time in Hamburg and London before settling into a career in social housing in Bristol.

In 1995, Hamilton-Baillie joined pedestrian and cyclist charity Sustrans to help it deliver a national cycle network with National Lottery funding.

His work became truly international from the turn of the Millennium as he travelled to Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany on a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship, and then became a Harvard University Loeb Fellow.

Studies throughout this period led Hamilton-Baillie to the conclusion that removing traffic control measures such as lights, signs and boxes would encourage drivers to take responsibility for avoiding more vulnerable road users.

He set up Hamilton-Baillie Associates in 2003 and went on to redesign several busy junctions using his principles of equal priority for vehicles, bikes and walkers.

The practice’s regeneration of Park Lane in Poynton town centre, Cheshire – which boosted pedestrian access and removed traffic lights to slash average speeds – won the 2013 Highways Magazine award for congestion reduction.

In the meantime, Dixon Jones won an RIBA Award in 2012 for a much-heralded transformation of London’s Exhibition Road that was inspired by Hamilton-Baillie’s work.

Sustrans chief executive Xavier Brice said this month that Hamilton-Baillie ‘played an instrumental role’ in shaping the organisation.

‘He was a true pioneer and trailblazer, fondly remembered by colleagues for his infectious passion, humour and expertise,’ he wrote.

‘But Ben’s interest went beyond cycle paths. He led study tours to the Netherlands to see woonerfs or home zones, and these led to Sustrans’ DIY Streets, which in turn led to the community street design work that sits at the heart of so much of what we do today.’

Hamilton-Baillie’s wife Jennifer Hill told the AJ he was always looking to bring people together, whether through his work or social activities.

‘Ben was passionate about creating public space that people would want to use and giving opportunities for people to meet up and hang out without the car taking over,’ she said.

‘In his personal life he was always doing this as well. Within our community in Bristol he was a focal point, organising group bike rides, community events and holidays.

‘When he was ill, all our neighbours rallied around and a lot of people were very sad when he died.’

Ben is also survived by the couple’s two children, Laurence and Agnes. A family funeral has been held.


Readers' comments (4)

  • A great loss. Such an inspiring person.

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  • What a legacy this man leaves behind. We, in Preston, have certainly benefited from it and our city is a better place to live as a result.
    How many hundreds of thousands of people will experience better places as a result of Ben's life.

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  • Inspirational...

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  • So sad, I knew Ben in Cambridge; he was a lovely person

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