Conversations with friends about New York City’s wildly popular bike share program often veer in a predictable direction. “Nobody’s wearing helmets!” is a typical refrain.
While that may be an overstatement, most of us would agree, based on our own observations, that users seem less likely to approach Citi Bike stations with head protection in hand than to hop on a blue bike sans helmet.
As bike share systems gain popularity as efficient and green means of city transportation, this phenomenon is observed in other cities where helmets are not required for adults. A Georgetown University Study of Capital Bikeshare users in Washington, D.C., for example, revealed that 7 out of 10 users forgo helmets. What’s more, the same study found that only 3 out of 10 who ride their own bikes make the same choice.
New Option for Portability
Especially for city dwellers newly drawn to the spontaneity and convenience that rank among bike share’s most powerful attractions, toting a helmet around town all day can seem cumbersome.
Morpher resembles a regular helmet; rigid panels with nylon hinges make the difference.
New ideas in helmet design might go a long way toward helping alleviate those cares for people who would rather wear helmets. One new example: The Morpher folding helmet, which raised double its funding target via a crowd-sourcing campaign that ended on December 30.
Saved by His Helmet
It was Londoner Jeff Woolf’s own avoidance of a head injury during a crash, thanks to the helmet he was wearing, combined with his observation that few London bike share users were availing themselves of head protection, that inspired his mission “to help save lives around the world.”
“If I wasn’t wearing a helmet, then I might not still be here today,” the 54-year-old, who was twice named British Inventor of the Year, told MailOnline. “A car smashed into me while I was cycling and I hit the curb…my helmet took the brunt of the fall. If I hadn’t been wearing it, I could have been brain-damaged or killed.”
Flattened, the helmet is only a few inches deep and weighs about half a pound. Photos: Morpher via Indiegogo
Constructed of EPS, nylon and polycarbonate, the Morpher sports the silhouette of an ordinary helmet, but its patented paneled construction enables it to collapse to only a few inches in depth for portability. The flattened form slips easily into a purse, laptop bag or backpack, while providing the same protection as a standard helmet, according to the Morpher website. In addition to online and traditional retail sales, Woolf notes that the flat profile might also be well suited to alternative distribution, such as helmet vending machines. Manufactured by Strategic Sports Ltd, the helmet is slated to debut next spring.
Best of Both Worlds?
Woolf cites data on the Morpher website indicating that 92 percent of London bike share users do not use helmets. Yet 84 percent say they place their lives at risk by not wearing them, and 83 percent say lack of portability is the key barrier.
With outside-the-bucket thinking like Woolf’s and that of other entrepreneurs, it may be increasingly possible for people who ride bicycles to get the best of both worlds in a helmet – head protection in the event of a crash and everyday carrying convenience.
Note: Citi Bike recommends riding with a helmet and provides a $10 savings coupon on purchase of a wide variety of helmet brands with purchase of an annual membership key. Details here.