The necessity yet utter inconvenience of wearing and carrying around a bike helmet has always posed an interesting design challenge – creating a helmet that is light, compact and ideally unnoticeable, but is at the same time capable of protecting your head from serious impact.
While its design and shock absorption are truly outstanding, the helmet is very expensive and like airbags (which it very much resembles) is single use – once activated during impact, it cannot be used again.
Less easy on the eyes, but just as easy to carry and much, much more affordable is the EcoHelmet – the winner of this year’s international James Dyson Award. The helmet is, surprisingly, made out of paper and folds to the size of a banana, which transforms it into a very light and compact object.
The burning question, obviously, is – can it protect your head. The designer, Isis Shiffer, told the BBC that she has done crash tests on it, and the helmet is pending to be certified for sale as a safety device. According to her, the honeycomb structure is “incredibly good at absorbing impact” and you can watch some of that in action in the following video.
The inspiration for the helmet came from Shiffer’s travels and use of bike sharing schemes in different cities. She hated not having a helmet while traveling and observed that most bike share users don’t wear one either. This is why she specifically conceived the helmet to be cheap (less than $5), convenient to buy next to bike stands (let’s say from a helmet vending machine) and easy to recycle once the cyclist no longer wants to use or carry it.
Shiffer emphasizes that while the helmet has been crash tested, it is not designed for long-term use, especially if it has rolled around the bottom of a bag for weeks. She is, however, working on a similar honeycomb foldable concept made of different materials in order to have a permanent-use model.
As international winner of the James Dyson Award 2016, Shiffer will be awarded $45,000 to further develop her invention. She plans to debut the design in New York in the summer.