This Foldable Paper EcoHelmet is Perfect for Bike Rentals

James Dyson Award

Lots of places rent bikes, but few of them also give you a helmet. Many riders choose to go without, but a new foldable paper helmet could make it simple to carry an extra layer of cranial protection. The EcoHelmet, created by industrial designer Isis Shiffer, forms a unique mesh structure that distributes any impacts and saves your head from nasty falls. It’s been tested in a crash lab, and yes, it scored highly, passing European safety standards.

Shiffer’s design won the annual International James Dyson Award, which comes with a £30,000 (around $37,600) grant to develop it further. The design could easily retail for less than $5, and Shiffer hopes to pilot the helmets in a scheme for bike sharers in New York next spring.

The helmet was tested for performance at Imperial College London, and has received positive reception. “They have a test rig for helmets and the professor in charge of the lab let me test out a lot of materials. It turns out it was a lot of fun. There is a frame with an anvil on the bottom and an accelerometer to measure speed and impact,” Shiffer told the BBC. “It is so solid and everyone who had held it in their hands is surprised about how solid it is.”

Bike share schemes are usually unable to offer helmet hire due to space constraints. Jonathan McLeod, a fellow with the Canadian Council for Democracy, has previously argued that helmet laws are outdated, as not everyone has a helmet and it discourages people from taking up cycling and reducing carbon emissions. Shiffer’s design would help prevent this, as paper helmets could theoretically fit in a small vending machine next to bike rentals.

Even if the pilot scheme takes off in New York, it may be a while before these helmets are widespread. After all, lab testing is fine, but it’ll probably take some getting used to the idea that strapping a bundle of folded paper to your head is totally safe and something that will help you avoid injury.