July 16 - A bicycle helmet made from discarded newspapers is a British design trio's answer to the problem of part-time cyclists riding rental bikes around London without protective headwear. Jim Drury reports.
London Mayor Boris Johnson - one of many cyclists who refuses to wear a helmet, despite safety concerns. Johnson's so-called 'Boris Bike' hire scheme has proved popular in the city, but critics say failing to provide helmets along with the bikes, puts riders at risk. Local students Ed Thomas, Bobby Petersen, and Tom Gottelier have a solution - their Paper Pulp Helmet, made from newspapers left abandoned on tube trains. SOUNDBITE (English) TOM GOTTELIER, PAPER PULP HELMET CO-DESIGNER, SAYING: "It's taking the newspapers that we currently see circulating the transport network here in London which we see on the roads, on the pavements, on the seats in the trains, taking those papers and mulching them up into a paper pulp. So just water and paper and then moulding them into a protective piece of headwear, a helmet with no additives, no chemicals, no glues at all." Organic ingredients are added to make the helmets water resistant for six hours. The mixture is vacuum-formed into shape, heated, and left to dry out. The result is a helmet with deep grooves, allowing a strap to be attached. And Thomas says it can be made at low cost. SOUNDBITE (English) ED THOMAS, PAPER PULP HELMET CO-DESIGNER, SAYING: "Mouldings of a similar size have been produced for around 20 pence and our aspiration is for us to have these helmets made certainly for under one pound. Ideally the customer attaining them for free, for them to be paid through a similar sponsorship scheme that the bicycles currently have." The trio say the helmet is safe, having passed rigorous European safety standards in initial tests. They want the headwear to be available at bicycle docking stations dotted around the city. After hire they could be left in the same place and re-pulped to make another helmet. The strap, made from woven paper twine, breaks down when blended, while the stainless steel buckle can simply be used again. SOUNDBITE) (English BOBBY PETERSEN, PAPER PULP HELMET CO-DESIGNER, SAYING: "Ideally we would see this in conjunction with the bike hire scheme, so you would basically pay for your bike, automatically pick up your helmets. When you're done with your journey you can just chuck it back in the bin and that would be recycled again." London transport authorities are considering a partnership, and the three Royal College of Art graduates say they're hopeful of attracting interest in Australia and Canada, where helmet use is compulsory.