Urban bike-sharing programs are booming in many cities, but most casual riders don't usually tote around a helmet. This means when they rent a bike, they often ride helmet-free, which can be a risky move in places were roads aren't designed to safely accommodate both cars and cyclists.
However, a novel design could make an affordable, collapsible, biodegradable helmet available from a curbside vending machine.
The EcoHelmet, designed by Isis Shiffer, is made entirely of cardboard, folds up accordion-style to about the size of a banana and is compact enough to fit in a laptop bag. It unfolds to fit just like a traditional helmet, cushioning the wearer's head with honeycomb-patterned paper that absorbs and distributes impacts, protecting cyclists from injury.
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The James Dyson Foundation selected the EcoHelmet - along with 19 other designs - for the Dyson Engineers Shortlist. These were chosen from among more than 1,000 submissions for the James Dyson Award 2016. The contest's International Winner will be selected from this list by inventor and designer Sir James Dyson on Oct. 27.
Shiffer, a designer and self-described ardent cyclist, told Live Science that during a year traveling abroad, she rented bicycles in many different cities and didn't always have a helmet with her. Riding without one could be a scary experience, she said. So Shiffer decided to create an affordable helmet that riders could pick up on the go, perhaps at the same station where they rent their bikes.
But traditional helmets are so bulky that a vending machine couldn't hold enough to keep up with daily demand, Shiffer explained. Her solution was to design a helmet that could be collapsed to take up a minimal amount of space but that would still provide the same protection as its bulkier cousin.
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