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Inflatable Cycling Helmets Are Safer Than Traditional Gear

Updated on February 11, 2016

Inflatable Cycling Helmets Are Safer Than The Traditional Headgear

Judith Soal wears the inflated bike airbag Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer
Judith Soal wears the inflated bike airbag Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer | Source

An airbag helmet has been specially invented for people who are aware of the dangers of cycling, but reluctant to wear the helmets that are uncool and do not provide any additional protection. It looks like a stylish, poofy collar and inflates like an airbag upon impact.

With a traditional cycle helmet, in case of a serious accident, the risk of severe and fatal head injury is high. A study for Folksam, one of Sweden's main insurance companies, backs the claim that the use of an airbag collar reduces the risk of injuries and is far superior at absorbing straight impacts in comparison with the traditional headgear.

The airbag is designed like a hood. It is made in ultrastrong nylon fabric that would not rip when scraped against the ground. It also covers a larger area of the head than a regular bike helmet, providing more protection while leaving the fields of vision open. The gas inflator that uses Helium gas to inflate the airbag is placed in a holder in the collar on the cyclist's back.

It has to be placed around the neck and zipped up under the chin. The zip needs to be completely closed for the collar to work correctly. There is an on/off switch on the zip tag that activates the airbag when it is attached to the right side of the collar. The connection with the airbag is turned off when you unclip this button. At the front of the collar, there are LEDs that show the battery level, and whether the airbag gear is on or off. It has to be charged through a computer, using a USB cable that comes along, when the LED signals that the battery is wearing off, that happens about 9 hours after cycling. It can also be charged using an ordinary smartphone charger with a micro USB connector.

The airbag collar is made of waterproof functional fabric. It is not washable but protected from wear, sweat and dirt by the surrounding fabric shell. Any marks on it can be rubbed with a damp cloth. It is designed ergonomically with an even weight distribution across the shoulder. It is slightly heavier at the back than at the front, so that when cycling, the weight rests on the back of the cyclist.

The airbag has two sensors, a gyroscope that tracks the angular shifts and an accelerometer that notes sudden changes in the cyclist's speed to detect movements indicating that a crash is imminent. In the situation of an accident, the airbag will inflate with Helium gas in a fraction of a second, fixate the cyclist's neck and provide shock absorption. The pressure within the helmet stays constant for a few seconds so that it can withstand multiple impacts. After that, the airbag slowly starts to deflate. Once inflated, the user needs to purchase a new airbag. One major obstacle to this innovation gaining popularity is its cost. You need to pay a whopping 500$ amount for this safety gear though in some countries most of the expenses are covered by insurance companies.

Thus, an airbag helmet is not only a worthwhile fashion accessory but much safer than a regular bike helmet.


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