Remembering Ben Hamilton-Baillie

By Xavier Brice,

Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, pays tribute to Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who died earlier this month.

“It was with great shock and sadness that I read the news that Ben Hamilton-Baillie had passed away.

I first met Ben around 10 years ago at City Hall in London. He came with a mammoth set of slides to present to the Mayor, but more importantly with passion and expertise that swept all there along with him as he explained how we could, and why we should civilise the city’s streets.

What I didn’t know at the time is that Ben played an instrumental role in shaping Sustrans. He joined the charity shortly after we were awarded a £42.5million grant from the National Lottery to deliver the National Cycle Network. 

At first, he was one of just a small number of staff working with John Grimshaw on the Network, and in his early days, Ben’s role covered the whole of the South of England and Wales.  He was a true pioneer and trailblazer, fondly remembered by colleagues for his infectious passion, humour and expertise. 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.

Ben’s work at Sustrans in the late 1990s led him to expand his own horizons: in 2000 he was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship and was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow in 2001.  This study further ignited his passion for what he described as ‘civilising streets’ and reclaiming urban spaces for people.

In his later years, through his own transport, design and urban planning practice, Ben continued to re-shape streets; and as an author, lecturer and advocate he worked tirelessly to educate and inspire others.

Whilst his life was too short, his memory lives on for all of us at Sustrans, and in civilised streets across the UK and beyond.”