Miami residents love riding their bikes. But, unfortunately, there are even more Miami residents who love driving their cars abysmally. The amount of traffic accidents regarding motor vehicles and cyclists is enough to make your head spin.
And with Critical Mass happening every month, bike safety couldn't be more crucial. As a kid, you might remember wearing those oftentimes tacky knee and elbow pads that matched your equally sparkly and tacky helmet. But as you grew older, and your parents stopped tapping your helmet on your head before every bike ride (or you got away from them so they couldn't), you might have tossed those old elbow and knee pads and accidentally left your helmet hanging when you go out for a ride.
Whatever the reason for not protecting your noggin - it's uncomfortable, it's ugly, it gives you helmet hair, what good does it do anyway, yadda yadda - you're about to rethink your no-helmet motto.
Two female (score one for the brainy ladies) inventors in Sweden have come up with the solution to your cycling problems. Introducing the invisible helmet. Okay, okay, it's not actually invisible, but other riders won't be able to tell you're wearing protective headgear until you stumble off your bike.
Hovding was the collaborative thesis project of Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin back in 2005 when they were studying Industrial Design at the University of Lund. Almost seven years later, the idea has come to fruition.
Engineered so that the helmet inflates over your head when it detects sudden or jerky movements, it's almost as if you're not wearing a helmet until you need one. And when it inflates, it kind of looks like a creepy alien hand. But it is effective; tests by a Swedish insurance company found the invisible helmet to be three times better at absorbing shock than traditional bike helmets.
The Hovding is designed to blend in with your outfit and look like a sort of collar or scarf, and with the outer "shell" being interchangeable, you can pretty much customize your scarf-helmet-collar.
The Swedish company describes on its website how the Hovding works. Basically, it senses patterns in your cycling movements, and if it detects an abnormality or a full on accident, it triggers the airbag. "Inflation takes a tenth of a second (0.1 seconds) and the airbag is fully inflated before head impact."
All photos courtesy of Hovding
Since the Hovding is coming from overseas, prepare to pay top dollar for one. Coming in at €399, that translates to $538.97, which for most people is quite, quite pricey for a helmet. Chances are that's more expensive than your own bike! And for most people who ride their bikes on the daily, they do so in order to cut costs, so it's hard to imagine those who would really benefit from the Hovding being able to afford one.
According to an NPR blog post, the Hovding has yet to even be approved for sale in the United States, but that isn't stopping Alstin and Haupt from trying. They are even considering developing a shell with an inner cooling system for warmer climates (hint, hint: Florida).
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For now, though, some in Miami's bike community have their reservations about the product. Issues of comfort, price, and the possibility of accidentally triggering the airbag seem to give traditional helmets the edge. As one cyclist put it, "Who's going to wear an inflatable $600 scarf in Miami's 85-90 degree weather?"
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