I live in Lund, a town in the southwest of Sweden. The town is small enough to make it possible to bike everywhere. And approximately 42 percent of all the journeys within my town are by bicycle. The bicycle grid is well-organized and maintained.
There are myriad reasons why biking is good for you, and society as a whole—health gains, low cost, pollution reduction. But there is, of course, a safety aspect to biking. In January of 2005, Sweden introduced a new law prohibiting children under 15 years of age from riding a bicycle without a helmet, and the debate continues as to whether all individuals, regardless of age, should be required to wear head protection.
In Sweden, twenty bikers died in 2010, and 1740 were seriously injured. Three thousand bikers were so badly injured they needed to visit a hospital, according to the Swedish Transport Administration.
Despite this, over 80 percent of Swedish bicyclists ride without a helmet. Messing up a new hairdo, or just looking plain silly are common reasons for going sans-helmet.
Recognizing the untapped market for fashionable headgear for riders, a pair of inventors in Sweden have come up with some novel safety apparel, and they’re hoping it’s cool enough to catch on with the trendy set.
Highlighted as part of BMW’s Global Innovation Series, the collar (called the Hövding), looks like a scarf and is worn around your neck. It contains an airbag which inflates and embraces the head in 0.1 seconds in the event of an accident.
The Hövding comes in a variety of different designs and could become a fast favorite among bikers. The technology is far-reaching, the inventors argue, and could eventually be used in horse riding and skiing as well as epilepsy helmets and hip protection for the elderly.
I’m looking forward to seeing where the Hövding ends up. A cool funky bike helmet will hopefully lead to less injuries and accidents and more people biking. I wonder what’s next for bikers like me?