The Mayor of Penarth Cllr Jon Luxton (Labour Stanwell) has provoked criticism in the council chamber by labelling local residents who opt to ride environmentally-friendly electric bikes as “lazy”.
The wheelchair-using Mayor’s provocative comment came in a discussion in Penarth Town council’s planning committee about a possible electric bike rental scheme.
In the committee meeting, it was revealed that the local Bike Shop – based in Glebe St – is planning to open a second shop near the Harbourmaster’s Office in Penarth Marina – close to the Penarth Barrage – and a route heavily used by cyclists.
The chairman of the planning committee Cllr Nigel Humphrey (Labour St Augustines) said he had been asked about the possibility of setting up an “electric bike scheme” – perhaps on similar lines to the NextBike pedal-bike rental scheme already based at the Barrage.
Cllr Humphrey said such an electric bike scheme could be “very beneficial”. There were – he said – lots of people in Penarth who commute to Cardiff . He said the Glebe Street Bike Shop was already selling electric bikes but, “we could do with an awful lot more of that – which might help relieve some of the pressure on the car park”. Cllr Humphrey said he was continuing to explore the electric bike scheme idea.
Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) said the use of electric bikes was going to “increase exponentially” . What he described as “aged people” needed to get around.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) asked whether the idea was that Penarth Council would be “promoting – rather than providing ” the rented electric-bicycles? Cllr Humphrey said he did not think the council wanted to start up a company to do this “at the moment” .
However the Mayor of Penarth, Cllr Jon Luxton (Labour Stanwell) did not think much of Cllr Humphrey’s electric-bike notion – which he described as “crazy”.
Cllr Luxton said “We are encouraging Sustrans [the heavily-criticised anti-car left-wing bike-promoting tax-payer-funded ‘charity’ ] and other organisations to encourage people to use bikes…right? …so they get healthy and fit ….and there we are, encouraging electric bikes that go everywhere without any effort at all. It just seems so crazy.“
Warming to his theme, Cllr Luxton said the manufacture of electric bikes took up “raw resources” . To make a battery involved resources which were “shifted around all over the country” and “covered thousands of air miles”. They were “not sustainable” he said.
Instead – Cllr Luxton said – people should be encouraged to “actually cycle “ rather than to get on an electric bike. The Town Clerk Emma Boylen said “It’s about ability though Cllr Luxton.” – and pointed to the widespread use of electric wheelchairs [ Cllr Luxton’s wheelchair is a manual model].
Cllr Luxton did not move from his anti-electric bike stance. “We should be encouraging people to cycle on [pedal] bikes and burn more calories and get healthy”
Cllr Cuddy thought perhaps there could be some sort of lift system for getting up Dock Hill.
Cllr Luxton said “I used to push a bike up there when I was a child – it was fine. It’s just lazy people.” Cllr Luxton noted there were now electric-assistance attachments which could propel manual wheelchairs. The whole issue needed to be “considered in the round and not just for people who were too lazy to ride their own bikes”.
But use of the term “lazy” – which twice in the proceedings had been hurled in the direction of Penarth electric-bike users (and council-tax payers) by Cllr Luxton – was not acceptable to Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell).
Cllr Wilson took issue with calling local residents – and voters – “lazy”. He said “I would reject the use of the word lazy, Cllr Luxton”.
Cllr Luxton interjected to say he was “only joking” but Cllr Wilson indicated that he considered the use of that word had been inappropriate.
Cllr Wilson went on to advocate the use of “kinetic energy” and said there was also an issue about bike safety – “how to ride a bike safely – especially in this town “ and also deplored the number of pot holes in Penarth which needed to be discussed with the Vale of Glamorgan Council [ of which he himself is a member].