A bicycle helmet made from paper could be the answer to the problem of cyclists riding rental bikes around the world without protective headwear. Roselle Chen reports.
The EcoHelmet, devised by Pratt Institute design graduate Isis Shiffer from Brooklyn, New York, is a paper bicycle helmet she hopes will be used by bike hire schemes in major cities. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ECOHELMET INVENTOR, ISIS SHIFFER, SAYING: "EcoHelmet is a foldable, recyclable helmet for bike share. It unfolds into a full-sized helmet. It uses paper honeycomb to absorb impact and it's meant to be very, very inexpensive and available along with bike share bikes." New York City's bike share program Citi Bike and similar systems around the world are increasingly popular with occasional cyclists who can, on a whim, rent a bicycle from various docking stations across the city. An arguable downside to most bike shares is that helmets aren't offered, so unless they've already brought their own, bike renters are forced to ride with their heads unprotected. The helmet is made from cardstock that Shiffer said was made from the same material as butcher paper, but much, much thicker. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ECOHELMET INVENTOR, ISIS SHIFFER, SAYING: "It really started with trying to come up with a material that was recyclable and also absorbed impact really well because if you're going to make something that is limited use and inexpensive, you can't have it go into a landfill, it has to have as small a footprint as possible. I was just looking at different types of material configurations that absorb impact and honeycomb is really, really good at it. This particular honeycomb, which I came up with, at least I haven't been able to find it anywhere else, I wish I had then these would be in production now. Regular honeycomb it's parallel cells and these are radial so that when it's on it protects from the front, side, back, all directions because each cell is normal to the head." The EcoHelmet is intended for short periods of use, after which, it can be reused or recycled. Shiffer plans to coat her invention in a waterproof substance to make the helmet resistant to rain. The designer says the helmets could be sold for $5 (USD) each or under from vending machines or local stores and is hoping the EcoHelmet will be available to the public in spring or summer of 2017. And the EcoHelmet just won the James Dyson Award for design and innovation, with a $45,000 grant going to Shiffer. More information can be found at www.jamesdysonaward.org and www.jamesdysonfoundation.com.