Bike Helmets Made from Recycled Newspaper

They're lightweight, biodegradable and waterproof—but are they tough enough?

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Paper Pulp Helmet

Prompted by a lack of helmets available in London’s bike sharing program, three British designers collected free newspapers flung around the city’s tube system and transformed them into water-resistant bike helmets.

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To make the Paper Pulp Helmets, the designers took strips of newspaper, shredded them into a blender containing a solution that’s 96% water plus a food-safe additive that makes the helmets water-resistant for up to 6 hours. Once mixed, the helmets are heat-dried to remove the water and molded into ridges and troughs, which the designers say give the helmet its strength to withstand impact. Paper Pulp Helmet’s website describes both the helmet and the strap, which is constructed from woven paper string, as “fully recyclable and can be re-pulped into a new helmet without any degradation of the material.” 

Looking to launch the helmets by Spring 2014, the inventors told Wired U.K. that each helmet is less than an inch thick–comparable to a foam liner on a regular bike helmet–and will cost a little over a dollar. Yet, it’s not designed to be a perfect substitute for a regular plastic helmet. “It’s for spontaneous cycle users and not your everyday cyclists,” Gottelier, one of the designers, tells the magazine. “We’re absolutely not saying that it’s better than other helmets.”

Given the increasing frequency of bicycle accidents, some head protection is better than none. In 2009 — the year before London’s “Boris Bikes” sharing program started in July 2010 — 2,710 cyclists were reportedly killed or seriously injured on London’s roads. By 2011, those casualties rose to 3,192, according to the government’s accident analysis report.

While the helmet has withstood tests at the Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, it has yet to be go through a trial run at SATRA, the UK’s leading helmet testing facility, according Wired U.K.

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Since there is no correlation between helmet wearing and reduced risk, and the largest ever research project found a small but signficant increase in risk with helmet wearing, expecting this invention to improve the safety of cyclists would appear to be slightly optimistic.

Likewise, the London bike share scheme has proven to be incredibly safe, and up until yesterday not a single serious incident, and yesterday's tragic fatality would not have been prevented by a cycle helmet as the cyclist was hit by a truck.

So nice try chaps, but no coconut.  You've invented something for which there is no problem and is completely unnecessary.


Accident rates have been very low among U.S. bikeshare riders, with very few serious head injuries. With the Capital Bikeshare system in Washington DC/Arlington VA/Alexandria VA, there have been millions of bike trips over the past 2.5 years. The last time I heard an update, there had been no serious head injuries among Capital Bikeshare users, over millions of trips. While bike helmets can help in some situations, there are other important factors in bike safety. Bikeshare tends to be safer than other riding because of the slower speeds, the heavier bikes and the low center of mass. This has been the case, even though many bikeshare riders are inexperienced, with poor bike-handling skills.


@RichardBurtonLink to claim.

Most research, when focused purely on whether helmets reduce injury following impact show that the helmet is better than your head.

A simple test is to wear a helmet and hit yourself on the head with a hammer. Then take off the helmet and repeat. Anyone can try  this at home. The whole family can join in.

Often what happens is that some researchers want to discuss the larger issue of public health in terms of exercise or reduced traffic and pollution. They want to then argue whether or not more people would ride bikes if helmets were not mandatory. 

This is irrelevant to the question of whether helmets protect you in a crash. You can conduct your own test on this as described above.