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"Invisible" bicycle helmet offers new twist on cycling safety

Every year in the Netherlands around 200 people die and around 67.000 are injured in cycling accidents. Around one third of cyclists who are injured suffer head injuries. The most effective protection against serious injuries to the skull is to wear a bicycle helmet every time you get on your bicycle. International studies show that bicycle helmets reduce injuries by at least 60%, and 40% of people who die in cycling accidents would have survived if they had been wearing a helmet.

Despite these statistics, the vast majority of cyclists on the roads aren't wearing helmets, and among people wearing helmets the majority are children. If people recognize that helmets promote safety when it comes to children, why do so few of adults wear them?

Reasons are many and vary from person to person. Bicycle helmets are bulky and impractical to carry around when you're not on your bicycle, and difficult to safely affix to the bike itself. Helmets are hot in the summertime, and difficult to fit over a warm hat in the wintertime. Wearing a helmet can mess up one's hairstyle. Many (most?) also think that helmets simply look silly or uncool.

Apparently many people think that the chance of getting into an accident is small enough to make wearing a helmet not worth the hassle, but the statistics indicate otherwise. So how to persuade more cyclists to wear a helmet?

With this quandary in mind, Swedish industrial design students Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin spent seven years creating Hövding, an "Invisible" bike helmet in the form of a collar with an airbag hidden inside which deploys in the case of an accident.

The airbag is triggered by sensors which pick up abnormal movements of the cyclist, based on measurements collected from hundreds of simulated cycling accidents. Once filled, the airbag covers the entire back and sides of the user's head. The Hövding also has a black box that records data around the time of an accident, which users can send back to the company to help them further develop the product. The collar is covered by a removable fabric shell which comes in different colors and patterns to match user's outfits.

Between being safe, practical to carry around, and relatively stylish, Hövding seems like a good option for cyclists who have avoided wearing a helmet in the past - at least those who can afford the $597 price tag.

To find out more about the development of the Hövding and to see it in action, check out the video below.

Sources: Hövding, the Institute for Road Safety Research, and Statistics Netherlands

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Carly Blair

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