The invisible helmet

The humble bicycle helmet continues to save countless lives and for most that commute on a bicycle, helmets are a core part of their apparel. However, for so many young people, wearing a helmet still has a stigma attached to it. Wearing one is seen as uncool, particularly for image conscious teens trying to impress just about everyone but their parents.

The trouble is, for the most part helmets are an uncomfortable necessity that is there is case you need it, though you hope you never will. There is also an argument that helmets don’t adequately protect the head for more serious incidents, such as in the event of a collision with a car.

The other lacking capability of many bike helmets is that it does not support the neck. As many accidents will result in the cyclist falling from the bike, protecting the neck is vital. The reality, however, is that most choose not to bother protecting the neck, as it makes a helmet even more uncomfortable and obtrusive to wear.

The Challenge

The challenge this month is to therefore come up with a better way of protecting the head and neck of cyclists that isn’t a traditional helmet. The aim is to make any such device so discreet, even the most image conscious teenager would be able to wear one without sulking.

The key for this challenge is to implement new ideas that are available in other industries, but not to cyclists: think car safety! The device could be installed on the bike itself or worn by the cyclist, though if it is to be worn, it should be unnoticeable until needed. Perhaps some kind of rapid unfurling padded device is the way to go.The question is, how?

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the February issue of Eureka! Until then see what you can come up with. Submit ideas by leaving a comment on the Coffee Time Challenge section of the Eureka! website or emailing to the Editor:

The solution

The solution to last month’s Coffee Time Challenge comes from Swedish-based Hövding. The company has developed a new type of bicycle helmet that users would be happy to wear and felt inspired by the use of car airbags.

The aim was to develop a ‘helmet’ that cyclists of all ages are happy to wear as it is so indiscreet. The result is the airbag helmet that provides up to eight times better protection compared to traditional bicycle helmets.

The airbag is designed like a hood and made in an ultra-strong nylon fabric that won’t rip when scraped against the ground. Hövding protects nearly all of the head, while leaving the field of vision open. The inflated airbag covers a much larger area than a traditional cycle helmet and is designed according to current accident statistics.

The airbag fixates the neck and provides extremely soft and gentle shock absorption. The pressure remains constant for several seconds, making it able to withstand multiple head impacts during the same accident. After that the airbag slowly starts to deflate.

The gas inflator that inflates the airbag is a so called cold gas inflator that uses helium. It is placed in a holder in the collar on the cyclist’s back.