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Architecture student wins prestigious Norman Foster prize for Cycling Megacities project

Charles Palmer will embark on an international study tour to inform his research

A Sheffield University architecture student has won the 2015 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship for his proposal, ‘Cycling Megacities’.

The study will take Charles to megacities in four developing countries – Mexico City, Mexico; Lagos, Nigeria; Dhaka, Bangladesh and Shenzhen, China, each of which presents different challenges to bicycle advocacy and urban design.

He will explore how policies, investments and campaigns are transforming urban public space in a bid to make the bicycle a transportation option for all social classes.

The jury was chaired by Lord Foster , who said: “Once again, the high standard of scholarship entries led to a lively and enjoyable debate.

“I congratulate Charles Palmer on this result – the jury felt this was an important subject, with an interesting focus on these rapidly expanding cities, and we were interested in the potential lessons that this research could offer for UK policy.

“Any planning initiatives will fail if we don’t address the social drivers behind people’s transport choices, therefore his proposal to examine the changing status of the bicycle in these different cities is particularly worthwhile.”

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said: “I am delighted that the 2015 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship award will help explore the influence of cycling and its impact on the shaping of urban public space across the world.

“As a keen cyclist, I am conscious that it is an issue which is not being dealt with as well as it should be in the UK, and was pleased to see that the intention of this research is to inform the debate and guide UK policy.

“I look forward to reading Charles’ findings in due course, which, thanks to the generosity of Foster + Partners, will no doubt build on the work being conducted by the RIBA on healthy cities.”

Initially set up in 2006 as a biennial programme, the £6,000 RIBA Norman Foster 
Travelling Scholarship is awarded to one student to fund international research on a topic and in a location of their choice. In 2009, Foster + Partners enabled the Scholarship to be awarded annually by donating an extra £100,000 to the endowment.

Last year we reported how a flagship new apartment block in London is to feature record amounts of cycle parking - amounting to one cycle space per bedroom - thanks to its bike-loving architect Norman Foster.

250 City Road, a new skyscraper in Islington, London, has been designed by Foster + Partners - the firm behind SkyCycle, a 136-mile high level cycle route imagined around London’s rail network.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson this month poured cold water on SkyCycle, describing the idea as “fantastically expensive” and outlining other measures he believes should take priority in improving the safety of cyclists, as we reported.

But more of a success story is Foster + Partners’ twin-towered “high-density, low-energy residential development” of around 900 luxury apartments, costing £840,000 for a one-bedroom flat, will feature 1,500 cycle parking spaces - around enough for one per bedroom - but only 200 car parking spots.

The 1,486 bike parking spaces make this development one of the most “most cycle-friendly high-rise in London” - and there will also be other features including dedicated bike elevators and on-site bike repair facilities.

Project architect Giles Robinson told Dezeen: “The project has a dedicated cycle lift from ground to basement level, where the cycle storage areas are located. At the basement level there is a dedicated cycle maintenance workshop that enables cycles to be cleaned and maintained."

The plans fall in line with new Transport for London (TfL) development guidelines that lay out a minimum number of bike parking spaces for new buildings.

But Foster + Partners has exceeded the expected 1,233 spaces in its plans.
 
Peter Murray, a member of the London Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, said: "It's a figure that spectacularly reflects changing attitudes to cycling in London. It represents a big shift in London. All new developments have to meet the [cycle provision] requirements, but since this is a tall and dense project, the impact and scale is impressive."

What remains to be seen, however, is how full all those bike parking spots are once 250 City Road’s well-heeled residents move in.

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