Time has come to finally end my summer blogging hiatus as the fall winds sweep in. A lot has happened over the last two months in and outside of graduate school — from my very first first-author publication to countless cycling adventures (photo above being from the latest ride northwest of Calgary). While it’s sad to see summer wind down, I’m excited to embrace the beginning of the fall and the challenges it will offer. It’s time to ride into the storm.
Do they matter?
The answer is an overwhelming yes.
Here are just a few numbers from a meta-analysis (i.e., a summary of all existing quantitative research) by Oliver & Creighton (2017) assessing the effectiveness of bicycle helmets in crashes and falls:
51% less likely to experience a head injury
69% less likely to experience a serious head injury
33% less likely to experience a facial injury
And 65% less likely to experience a fatal injury
To boot, other meta-analyses find relatively similar results (Attewell et al., 2001; Elvik, 2011; Høye, 2018).
So yes, bicycle helmets matter.
But recent innovations in bicycle helmet tech have improved their effectiveness a considerable amount.
Here I’m talking about WAVECEL and MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System).
While these two helmet technologies work in slightly different ways, they essentially soften the impact on the head by separating the helmet and your head from the initial shock.
With a traditional helmet, there is essentially a plastic and foam barrier between your head and what it hits, but your head rotates with the helmet at the same speed (and it’s this initial rotation and acceleration that leads to most head injuries, such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries).
With MIPS and WAVECEL, there is within the helmet a moving liner or collapsible structure, respectively, that decreases this rotation, and ultimately the chance of head injuries (Bliven et al., 2019).
So if you’re in the market for a helmet, I would highly recommend looking out for either MIPS or WAVECEL, with MIPS helmets tending to come in at slightly lower costs because the tech has been around for quite a bit longer.
If you’d like more information about bicycle helmet testing, check out the website for Virginia Tech’s helmet testing lab. They run comprehensive third-party testing on helmets for various sports, including cycling.
Attewell, R. G., Glase, K., & McFadden, M. (2001). Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 33(3), 345-352.Chicago
Bliven, E., Rouhier, A., Tsai, S., Willinger, R., Bourdet, N., Deck, C., … & Bottlang, M. (2019). Evaluation of a novel bicycle helmet concept in oblique impact testing. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 124, 58-65.
Elvik, R. (2011). Publication bias and time-trend bias in meta-analysis of bicycle helmet efficacy: a re-analysis of Attewell, Glase and McFadden, 2001. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43(3), 1245-1251.
Høye, A. (2018). Bicycle helmets–To wear or not to wear? A meta-analyses of the effects of bicycle helmets on injuries. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 117, 85-97.
Olivier, J., & Creighton, P. (2017). Bicycle injuries and helmet use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Epidemiology, 46(1), 278-292.Chicago
This summer I wanted to find the cycling path to and visit Chestermere, as well as visit and ride through Fish Creek provinicial park in southern Calgary. I never thought I’d do this in a single ride, but that’s what ends up happening when you get slightly lost. Besides, it’s never really getting lost or going in the wrong direction when you’re on a bike, it’s called exploration. Kudos to my buddy Kevin for the company and hammering through. Ride on.
Had the wonderful opportunity to ride out in Kananaskis Country on a highway that is closed to cars for half of the year (how awesome is that?!). Apparently Highwood Pass is the highest paved road in Canada at 2206 meters. Definitely one of my favourite rides so far. Shout out to my buddy Vaarun for letting me know about this and inviting me out. Ride on!
Had the opportunity (and legs) to make it to one of my favourite cycling destinations within range from Calgary: Bragg Creek. Legs were feeling good today and managed to power through despite a nasty headwind on the way there (convincing myself how so very sweet it would be on the way back helped!). Ride on!
I had to go to Edworthy Park for my first outdoor ride on the Roubaix this year. One of my favourite small twisty climbs within Calgary. What goes up — is all the more fun going down. Ride on.
(Photo via Steve Granger)
I recently listened to the thought and action provoking conversation between the philosopher, William MacAskill, and author, Sam Harris, on the Waking Up podcast, which I highly recommend (unless, as I ruefully learned, you’re about to go do some back-to-school clothes shopping – you’ll get why shortly). They discussed arguments for what is called effective altruism. Effective altruism is the idea that we should apply reason and evidence to maximize our attempts at making the world a better place.
For most of us, we are in the advantageous position to do a great deal of good. We can save a life right now. Seriously. Imagine the story you would have if you were out for a night-on-the-town and you pulled someone away from getting hit by a distracted driver – or the tale you would recite if you ran into a burning building and saved a little child and his three-legged dog. As MacAskill and Harris conclude, we are in a position to reach out or run in whenever we want!
But then the questions start to roll in. Who or what organization should we give to? How much should we give? How can I truly maximize the good I do? Luckily the effective altruism movement has answers for these and many more questions: http://www.givewell.org/
The key takeaway for me is this: Giving shouldn’t necessarily be seen as an obligation, but an opportunity. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the “maximize the common good” mindset – where luxury is a sin and being a hypocrite is unavoidable (e.g., getting new clothes when your old ones are perfectly fine!). Many get paralyzed by this approach. They turn inward by putting up a wall of distrust and self-preservation. They lash outward by reproaching those who express benevolent inclinations and dismiss them as virtue signals. Ultimately, they give less than they would have in hindsight.
Yet it has never been so easy to reach out. If we simply change how we think and reason about giving, we could do so much more. That’s why I wanted to share this conversation between MacAskill and Harris, and the idea of effective altruism. As Harris points out in his postscript, it is not so often that we can share ideas that have such immediate consequences.