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Dr Ben Spencer

PhD (Urban Design and Gerontology), MA Urban Design

Research Fellow

School of the Built Environment

Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment

Ben Spencer

Phone number: ​+44 (0)1865 484061


Location: Oxford

I am a Research Fellow on the ESRC funded Healthy Urban Mobility (HUM) research project. This is a three year project led by Oxford Brookes in collaboration with three Brazilian Universities. It uses innovative interdisciplinary mixed-methods research to understand the relationship between urban environments, mobility, health and wellbeing.

Teaching Urban Design and Planning at MA, Undergraduate and Foundation levels: Place Making design studio, Research Methods, Theory and Practice of Play.


Supervising Spatial Planning and Urban Design MA Dissertations.

Prior to the HUM project, from October 2013 – September 2016 I worked as a researcher on cycle BOOM an EPSRC funded project. This was part of the Lifelong Health and Well Being - Design for wellbeing: ageing and mobility in the built environment programme. The project was led by Oxford Brookes in collaboration with Cardiff University, Reading University and the University of the West of England. Innovative interdisciplinary mixed-methods research explored the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling for older people.

From October 2009 – September 2013 I completed my PhD: Playful public places for later life at the University of the West of England, Bristol. I used mixed qualitative methods to understand which qualities of public open spaces facilitate playful behaviour by older people. During this time I also completed an MA in Applied Social Research.

Research group membership

Urban Design Group

Research grants and awards

RTPI Urban Design student of the year award for the South West | 2009

British Society of Gerontology ‘Interview a Professor’ award with Prof Sheila Peace, BSG President | 2015

Bursary to attend Sharing Futures Summer School, Birmingham University | 2015

Research projects

Healthy Urban Mobility

cycle BOOM

Research impact

Organised and led the British Society for Gerontology seminar Design for Wellbeing: Innovative research methods for understanding older people’s everyday mobility, April 2015.

Organised and led the British Society for Gerontology Special Interest Group on Research on Transport and Mobility seminar Later life mobility: From home to neighbourhood and community, April 2017 at Oxford Brookes.

Worked with cycle BOOM colleagues and Film Oxford to create four films summarising and illustrating our key findings and with 12 participants to create short documentary films about the wellbeing benefits they experinced from cycling.

Devised and delivered school-based a Key Stage 3 Design and Technology project on transport futures.

Experienced in using blogs and social media to disseminate research activity to a wider audience.

Further information

Journal articles

  • Pooley CG, Jones T, Chatterjee K, Spencer B, Jones H, 'Family formation and everyday travel in Britain since c1850'
    History of the Family (2018)
    ISSN: 1081-602X eISSN: 1081-602X
    Abstract Website

Book chapters

  • Jones T, Chatterjee K, Spencer B, Jones H, 'Cycling beyond your sixties: The role of cycling in later life and how it can be supported and promoted' in Musselwhite, C. (ed.), Transport, travel and later life, Emerald Publishing Ltd. (2017)
    ISBN: 9781787146242
  • Jones T, Spencer B, 'Can Urban Streets and Spaces be Intergenerational Cycling Zones' in Kaplan M, Thang LL, Sanchez M, Hoffman J (ed.), Intergenerational Contact Zones - A Compendium of Applications, University Park, PA: Penn State Extension (2016)
  • Mahjoubi, L. and Spencer, B., 'Healthy play for all ages in public open spaces' in The Routledge Handbook of Planning for Health and Well-Being, Routledge (2015)
    ISBN: 978-1-13-802330-7
  • Spencer, B.; Williams, K.; Mahdjoubi, L.; Sara, R., 'Third Places for the Third Age: The contribution of playable space to the Well-being of older people' in Landscape, Well-being and the environment, Routledge (2013)
    ISBN: 978-0-415-82998-4

Other publications

Areas of expertise

Urban Design

Active travel / sustainable mobility



Community development

Health and wellbeing

Designing healthy environments


Membership of professional bodies

The British Society of Gerontology - founder and co-ordinator of the Special Interest Group for Transport and Mobility

The Academy of Urbanism


Delightful cycling for all? The potential of enhanced sensory experience to encourage cycling ARCC Feeling good in public spaces dialogue series: Visual spectacle and tactile texture of urban places | Feb 2016 | LDA Design, London.

Understanding cycling in later life and the health and wellbeing benefits of velo-mobilitly in age-friendly communities British Society for Gerontology Annual Conference | July 2015 | Newcastle, UK.

Reflections on cycling experience in later life: diaries and discussions British Society for Gerontology Annual Conference | July 2015 | Newcastle, UK.

cycle BOOM so far UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference | September 2014 | Oxford, UK.

Playable Public Spaces for Later Life Making the City Playable Conference | September 2014 | Bristol, UK.

The cycle BOOM Project Eco2Mobility: Mobility and Social Inclusion workshop | March 2014 | Provinciehuis of the Province of East-Flanders | Ghent, Belgium.

Convenor and chair of symposium: Researching Design for Wellbeing: Ageing and mobility in the built environment and presenting Maintaining Momentum - ageing and cycling in Oxford British Society of Gerontology conference | July 2016 | Stirling, UK.

Other experience

From 2008–9 I was a Senior Urban Designer for RPS Planning and Development. I worked on master planning, site appraisal and design guidance projects for residential schemes across the UK for local authority and private clients. These projects included the research and preparation of Design Codes for a large housing site, a Development Framework for a former airfield and an Urban Design Strategy for a Lincolnshire town.

I was Head of Education at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) from 2002-6. Here I established CABE’s national education programme including the award winning 360˚ magazine. I worked with a charitable board of CABE commissioners, CABE staff and external partners (including Oxford Brookes University, Architecture Centre Network and the Geographical Association) to develop a suite of teaching materials to enable teachers to deliver the national curriculum using the resource of their local built environment. These were based on research I comissioned from MORI into the educational requirements of secondary school teachers in England.

I am actively involved in the community life of my home town of Stroud in Gloucestershire having been a Town Councillor from 2011-2015: Deputy Chair (Planning) Consultations Committee and a Working Group Leader for the Neighbourhood Plan (now adopted by the District Council). I also initiated the Stroud Apple Town project which grew into Edible Stroud and helped to crowdsource and set up a community woodland. I currently run a local girl's junior football team playing in the Gloucestershire League and try and get out on my bike.