Cycling Interviews: Marvin Rees, Mayoral Candidate

 Marvin Rees is the Labour candidate for mayor. As with other candidates to be Bristol's first elected Mayor, Life Cycle asked him for his views on cycling and cyclists in Bristol. Here are his answers to our questionnaire.

1. Do you cycle? If so, what sort of cyclist would you describe yourself? (eg commuter, wobbler, lycra-wearer)

Commuter with aspirations to be more. But with a small hallway, little storage space, two children, push chairs and children’s bikes and scooters my cycling options sometimes take a back seat. So I walk a lot. Makes me acutely aware that home storage is one of the challenges we need to consider as we encourage more people to cycle.

2. In general terms, what is your opinion of cyclists in Bristol? (eg congestion busting, eco-warriors; above the law bunch of *****; other)

Overarching I would say that cycling brings openness to a place. It breaks us out of the isolation of individual car use and into connection with the wider city. The environmental benefits are clear but for me it is about that opportunity to feel like I am surrounded by humans rather than factors of production being moved around. Outside of that, it’s too varied. My mum never learned to drive and has been getting around by bike since the 80s (64 years old with the heart of someone in their late 30s according to our GP). She is very different to the kids at the skate part or the cycling commuters or my mountain biking cousin. I would also add that all road users need to respect each other.

3. What in your view are the biggest problems faced by cyclists in Bristol?

Unsafe roads. The bike theft industry. A lack of safe storage at destination. The older smaller houses or blocks of flats with limited space that makes storing cycles at home such a challenge.

4. What was your opinion of Bristol as a Cycling City?

It was a good title, it captured something of what we are , what we want to be and there were genuine efforts made to make conditions better for cyclists. But I think it was a missed opportunity to launch the scale of infrastructural and cultural change we needed. We have faced challenges in the past in that we approach our city’s future as a series of projects, sometimes connected and sometimes not. I can’t help but feel this fell into that trap.

5. If there was one thing you could do to improve cycling in the city, what would it be?

Build it into every planning decision – housing, transport and public health. As I said, it can’t be a project by project approach. It has to be natural outworking of a long term plan.

6. The Greater Bristol Cycling Strategy 2011-2026 has targets of 20% of all journeys by bike by 2026 (with an intermediate target of 9% by 2015). The baseline figure was 4% of all journeys in 2008 Do you endorse these targets?


7. The same strategy suggests that funding should be allocated at £11 per capita across the strategy area, rising to £20 in target areas. If elected, would you commit this level of resources to cycling? An absolute yes to the principle of putting more resources into getting people cycling as part of a wider strategy of increasing physical activity and reducing the burden our transport places on the environment. But it would be dangerous to specify amounts at his stage with big decisions still to be made.

8. Will you endorse the Times Campaign 8 point manifesto


9. What other measures would you seek to introduce which either directly or indirectly will promote cycling? Do you have any other comments about cycling, walking or other methods of sustainable travel?

Build it into the city’s long term plan. We can have the short term projects that have impact and these will always be important. But they will only deliver the kind of cultural shift we need to get people out of cars and onto bikes (or feet) if they are lined up as part of a longer term game that shapes the way we do planning and makes cycling safe and convenient. I would like safer storage options in public spaces. When I ride to meetings, I spend some of the time popping out to check my bike is still there. In New Haven (USA), the university buses have racks on the front for bikes. Ride downhill to work, catch the bus back up hill with bike. I thought it was a simple but great idea. Also has potential to effectively halve the daily bus fare. We need original thinking of our own and we need peoples ideas.