Professional brain-tinkerer (neurosurgeon) Henry Marsh has chucked his tuppence-worth into the seemingly never-ending debate about whether we should be cladding our skulls in polystyrene when we take to the mean streets on our bicycles. The topic of whether we should wear helmets always used to be overwhelmingly convincing on the ‘yes’ front, with naysayers being regarded as suicidal loons. But now the tide is turning and we’re finally getting some interesting debate on the topic.
It’s worth noting (especially if you’re as sarcastically sceptical as we are) that an awful lot of the pro-helmet research appears to have been paid for by the companies who manufacture the helmets. Now I know that this is unavoidable to a certain extent, after all drug companies fund research into the effects of their drugs, research is rarely carried out without a motivated party (with an interest in the outcome) putting their hands in their pockets to fund it. It could perhaps be said that a neurosurgeon might be in a similar position – after all (sadly) some of his stock and trade results from cycling accidents. But fortunately in this country at least medical professionals heartily encourage us all to do whatever we can to stay out of their consulting rooms. God bless the NHS. Seriously. So to have one of the people who have to rebuild us after head injuries declare publicly that helmets make near as dammit no difference to how our heads cope with discourteous attention (to the extent that he doesn’t wear one himself) is interesting enough for us to stop what we’re doing and pay attention. It’s worth noting (because we’re just the kind of jerks that note shit like this) that Henry Marsh doesn’t entirely disagree with cycling headwear, he just doesn’t think much of what he refers to as ‘flimsy helmets’. So what does he wear on his head while cycling? Well I’ll let the man speak for himself by directly quoting him:
“I have been cycling for 40 years and have only been knocked off once. I wear a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. I look completely mad.”
Now this is only one man’s opinion, and he may be a very clever man who has had human brains in his hands more often than most of our readers (we hope), but he is not representative of his peers when it comes to saying ‘pfffhhttt’ to bike helmets. We wouldn’t be foolish enough to make a strong judgement either for or against bike helmets (that’s what the comments section below is for) but we would encourage an open mind when it comes to listening to the evidence. Even if the evidence comes from a man who rides his bike dressed in a cowboy hat and boots (and trousers and a top we assume, although…).
So where did this brain mechanic air his views you say? Well at a literary festival of course. There is no emoticon appropriate at this juncture. The man did say a few other entertaining things about cycling through red traffic lights and the like, so we’d encourage you to have a click on the link below so you can read the rest of the story.