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.
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.