Bike sharing schemes have become a familiar feature in many major cities around the world. They are designed to help free up increasingly clogged urban roads and ease congestion on public transport networks. The only problem is that bicycle helmets aren't offered as standard. So unless you want to bring your own, you're left with with little choice but to go without. The Paper Pulp Helmet offers an ingenious alternative.

The Paper Pulp Helmet has been designed to offer a choice to those hiring a bike but who don't carry a bicycle helmet around with them at all times. It's the brainchild of Tom Gottelier, Bobby Petersen, and Ed Thomas, all of whom are graduates of the Royal College Of Art in London.

The helmets are made from newspapers collected from around the public transport network in London, in other words left on buses and trains. The newspapers are mixed with water to create a pulp, to which an organic additive is then added to make the helmets water resistant for six hours, and a natural pigment added to differentiate the different sizes. The mixture is then vacuum-formed into shape, heated, and then left to dry out.

The result is a bike helmet with deep grooves that allow both for a strap to be attached to secure it to a person's head, and to allow air to flow around the head to prevent it overheating. The Paper Pulp Helmet is intended for short periods of use and after it has served its purpose it can be reused, or recycled to be pulped and reshaped into a new helmet.

The designers say that Eeach helmet is so cheap to produce that they could be sold for £1 each (US$1.50) from vending machines or local stores.

While conceived for the London Bicycle Hire Scheme otherwise known as "Boris Bikes" (in mocking honor of the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson), the Paper Pulp Helmet could also be used in similar schemes around the world and may be of particular interest in places that have mandatory helmet regulations like Australia (in Melbourne helmets made from polystyrene and thermoplastic are available for $5 from vending machines and local shops, but this is a subsidized price).

Is it safe? Well, the designers claim the Paper Pulp Helmet "meets stringent European safety standards," and the ultimate point is that it's likely to be better than wearing no helmet, which is the (lack of) choice currently offered by bike sharing schemes.

This is currently just a concept, but as it seems to solve an inherent problem with bike sharing schemes it surely deserves to be considered. The video embedded below shows the life and times of a Paper Pulp Helmet from beginning to end.

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