I want to ride my bicycle...


I happen to be attending a major Child Brain Injury Trust fundraising event tomorrow night, as part of its annual "GloWeek" initiative. 

This worthy cause highlights the importance of kids being both bright and seen when out, especially now that the clocks have gone back an hour and the nights are drawing in. 

So my interest was tweaked by an entrepreneurial product with the capacity to keep children, or for that matter any cyclist, safe on our notoriously dangerous roads.

The Hövding is a Swedish alternative to a conventional bike helmet, worn around the neck; should you crash, a built in airbag activates and both encapsulates and protects your head.

This invention was initially conceptualized as a way to circumvent the perceived "nerdiness" of traditional helmets, preserving the vanity and safety, as well as the hairstyle, of cyclists everywhere.

Last year's report on cycling accidents from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents noted that:

"Head injuries, ranging from fatal skull fractures and brain damage to minor concussion and cuts, are very common injuries to cyclists. Hospital data shows that over 40% of cyclists, and 45% of child cyclists, suffer head injuries. A study of 116 fatal cyclist accidents in London and rural areas found over 70% of the cyclist fatalities in London had moderate or serious head injuries in London, and over 80% of those killed in collisions on rural roads."

Researchers from Stanford University have certainly been impressed with the shock absorption qualities of the Hövding, suggesting that it achieves an eight-fold reduction in the risk of concussion, compared with using a traditional helmet.

Like any car airbag, the Hövding is single use and be warned, if you come off your bike its likely to deploy, whether you need it or not. So there is some potential  for the wearer to make something of a spectacle of themselves. And retailing at £99, they're not exactly cheap, though some insurers will cover the cost of a replacement as part of their policy premium. 

To date over 110,000 units have been sold. If you have the time, there's a great viral marketing campaign; an aestheticized slow-motion video of a crash played in reverse. With more than 100 million views and 2 million shares, its perhaps not surprising the product has become commonplace on the roads of Stockholm, Copenhagen and Berlin. 

So, keep a eye out for one on a cycle lane near you in the U.K. and stay safe out there...

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Imagine a London where no one wears a cycle helmet – and not because vanity has hit the roof, or because the roads have been made so safe that helmets are redundant
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