Swedish design company wins award for ‘invisible’ cycle helmet

A leisurely cycle ride in the countryside on a cool summer morning can be a wonderful way to pass the time. Cycling in the city, on the other hand, sometimes involves putting your life on the line.

With trucks and buses roaring by so close you could reach out and touch their wheels, it’s little wonder that every week you read reports of cyclists ending up under them instead.

At the 2011 Index Design Awards ceremony in Copenhagen this week, Swedish design company Hövding won a prize for something that could greatly improve cyclists’ safety – especially those who don’t like to wear helmets. It’s a unique ‘invisible’ airbag, which is worn around the neck as a collar and inflates on impact in the event of an accident.

The contest offers the world’s biggest monetary prize for design (100,000 euros for each category winner) and encourages entrants to target and solve problems in daily life.

A video on the Telegraph website shows the airbag’s two designers, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, picking up the award, given in the ‘play’ category.

Talking about their invention, Haupt said that when they did preliminary research, cyclists told them they didn’t like putting on a helmet because, despite the risks of not wearing one, they “look ugly, feel geeky [and] destroy your hair.”

Someone suggested to Alstin that the helmet “should be invisible.” They then came up with the idea of something that fits around the neck, out of sight, which inflates in the event of an accident.

According to Hövding’s website, the collar’s “trigger mechanism is controlled by sensors which pick up the abnormal movements of a bicyclist in an accident.” It sounds like a fabulous idea, just so long as a sudden sneeze doesn’t result in an unexpected inflation.

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