Friday, August 26, 2016

Richard Branson and the claim that "a helmet saved my life"

When I saw the pictures of British tycoon Richard Branson battered and bruised after a bicycle fall on a Caribbean island this week, I wondered for an instant if Jeremy Corbyn, the UK’s Labour party leader, had pushed a stick through his spokes.

The two had clashed in the #traingate row when the businessman refuted the politician’s claim that there were no seats on a Virgin train and he’d had to sit on the floor.

One can only imagine Mr Corbyn’s fury over Mr Branson’s claims. However, barring a poltergeist-like power that works over several thousand miles, or an exceptionally long stick, Mr Corbyn is probably not guilty of causing this bicycle mishap.

Mr Branson, meanwhile, blames a rogue “sleeping policeman” speed bump for his fall, which happened while he was going downhill during a ride with Holly and Sam, his grown-up children.

Both Mr Branson and Mr Corbyn appear to agree on one thing though: the power of cycle helmets.

Mr Branson told the Daily Mirror newspaper that his life was only saved because he was wearing a helmet, even though his only facial injury was to his cheek.

The fact that a helmet would have been next to useless if he’d gone off the cliff, where his bicycle ended up, seems not to have occurred to him.

Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, always wears his silver-and-black helmet, which serves as a  counterpoint to his grey goatee beard.

Mr Branson’s claim is bound to upset the growing number of cyclistas in London who are riding bare-headed — putting their faith in the data at cyclehelmets.org rather than a relatively flimsy piece of polystyrene.

Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director of Cycling UK, Britain’s national cycling charity, wished Mr Branson a speedy recovery but cautioned that helmets were made only to withstand simple falls not high-speed impacts. He said: “One cannot safely assume that a cycle helmet would have ‘saved Mr Branson’s life’

“Some evidence suggests that helmet-wearing may make cyclists more injury-prone, possibly due to riding a bit less cautiously.”

Mischievously he pointed out that the British billionaire had been stopped by police in Australia three years ago for not wearing a helmet.

As to the future, Mr Branson will, no doubt, be developing a Virgin-branded suit of armour that will protect cyclists’ entire bodies in any situation. In fact it may just make him his next billion.

Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, is probably reflecting that his helmet gave no protection from particularly vicious silly-season political fallout.

Will Bramhill, August 26, 2016

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