Bike-share programs are on a roll across the United States. The programs are especially popular with city commuters who want to skip the crowded bus, hop on a rented bike and pedal.
Unfortunately, many people who use bike-sharing programs are putting themselves at risk by not wearing a bike helmet. According to several studies — including this 2016 bike-sharing and bicycle safety study by Mineta Transportation Institute — helmet use among bike-sharing users is much lower than it is among other bikers.
In an effort to turn those numbers around, Isis Shiffer — an industrial design student at the Pratt Institute in New York — invented the EcoHelmet. The product is an inexpensive paper bike helmet that not only protects riders’ heads, but can also be folded up and recycled at the end of a ride.
Shiffer, an avid bike rider herself, believes the compact paper helmet that folds to the size of a banana could be sold from vending machines at bike-share stations.
“You could buy a helmet for $5 or less, and when you’re done with the ride, you’d put it back in a recycle bin located at each (bike-sharing) station,” Shiffer, CEO and founder of design consultancy Spitfire Industry, tells CNN Money.
The EcoHelmet is made from waterproof recycled paper. Its radial honeycomb pattern enables it to absorb hard hits, similar to how polystyrene absorbs hits in most bike traditional helmets.
You simply open the paper EcoHelmet — which remains a concept design for now — put it on your head, pull down the straps and clip them under your chin.
The EcoHelmet was recently named the U.S. winner of the 2016 James Dyson Award, an international design competition open to students and recent grads who “design something that solves a problem.”
“I want my helmet to keep cyclists safe, and make cities safer and greener at the same time,” Shiffer tells CNN Money.
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