Anyone visiting Stockholm, Copenhagen or Berlin may have seen plenty of cyclists pedalling around with large collars around their necks. Well, we’d better get used to them as they are making their way to the UK soon too. (The collars, not the cyclists).
They’re not fashion items but airbags and, should the cyclist wearing one be involved in an accident, they have proven to offer up to eight times better protection than a traditional cycle helmet.
The airbags are called Hövding helmets and are proving to be a real hit, sorry, we’ll rephrase that, success. With 100,000 already sold, they’re clearly hugely popular across Scandinavia and the makers claim they’re now being sold in sixteen countries across Europe and Asia, with the US and Australia in their sights too.
Working on the same principle as a vehicle airbag, these contain sensors that record the cyclists’ movements 200 times a second. In the event of an accident, the sensor detects the change in movement and inflates the airbag. This then wraps itself around the cyclists’ head so protecting them from impact.
Of course, some cyclists may take some convincing. At around $300 the helmets are a lot more expensive than the traditional helmets they’re hoping to replace and there is nowhere to fix a Go Pro camera (obligatory for those cyclists who need evidence of motorists cutting them up and the stand up fights these can cause). But traditional helmets do have their drawbacks too, not the least that they mess up your hair and, despite what anyone says, they make you look, well, nerdy.
The Swedes might have the right idea though. There, most insurers will cover the cost of the helmet as part of customers’ home insurance packages in the case of an accident. Their argument is that the helmets’ superior protective ‘efficacy’ makes it a good deal for insurance companies who are hoping to incentivise customers to be safer in traffic.
Some customer have experienced early teething problems with the helmets. Apparently, a common mistake is that people forget to turn the collar off when they get off their bikes. This must make for quite an entrance. And an expensive one too as the company won’t replace it with a free one.
The helmets are already available in the UK. Click here to see them in action.