Adisposable paper bike helmet could save lives by being sold alongside cycle share schemes in cities.
The EcoHelmet, invented by New York design graduate Isis Shiffer, is made using a lattice shape that means it can fold up into a compact design about the size of a banana, while protecting cyclists as well as a typical helmet.
Ms Shiffer said she expects the helmet to cost around $5 (£4) and plans to start selling it at some point next year.
While many cyclists already wear helmets, there isn’t an option for those who use bike share schemes such as London’s Boris bikes or New York’s Citi Bikes. Ms Shiffer said she envisions the helmets being sold in vending machines next to a row of hire bikes, and being recycled after use.
Ms Shiffer came up with the idea for the helmet when studying abroad in Tokyo and at Imperial College London, saying she found the idea of riding a bike in a foreign city without a helmet terrifying, and ended up spending money on buying new helmets when she used bike share schemes.
She decided to create a design for a disposable helmet that could be recycled, unlike the polystyrene in many helmets. She then used crash-test facilities at Imperial College London to prove the strength of the design.
The helmet’s honeycomb structure means that the impact from a collision is spread around the helmet, rather than in one place.
Ms Shiffer said that a coating on the paper would also protect it from rain damage for up to three hours, and that the flexible design made it relatively comfortable.
“The material is pretty stretchy, it fits a broad variety of heads, and ventilates pretty well as well,” she said. “It isn’t going to be as comfortable [as a regular helmet] but it’s not uncomfortable – surprisingly.”
The helmet has won the £30,000 International James Dyson Award, a prize handed out by the British company each year. Ms Shiffer has partnered with Los Angeles-based firm MemBrain to produce and sell the helmet.
Sir James Dyson said: “EcoHelmet solves an obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way. But its simplicity belies an impressive amount of research and development. I look forward to seeing EcoHelmets used in bike shares across the world.”