Brooklyn designer's foldable paper helmet could redefine bike share safety

ByCeFaan Kim via WABC logo
Friday, November 18, 2016
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Eyewitness News reporter CeFaan Kim has the story.

BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- An industrial designer from Brooklyn is turning -- and protecting -- heads with an invention that could change bike-share safety for the better.

"Using bike share and either having to carry a helmet with me all the time, or not wear a helmet, or buy an expensive new one, which I didn't want to do, it just seemed like there was something missing in the bike-share ecosystem," Isis Shiffer said.

And as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And what Shiffer needed was a foldable, disposable and useful bicycle helmet.

Her solution is honeycomb patterned and made of heavy-grade paper, which might not seem like the best material. But the paper helmet may defy logic.

"In the event of a crash, every cell is perpendicular to the head," Shiffer said.

According to the Shiffer, the helmet is eco-friendly, waterproof, crash-resistant and is currently being certified by independent safety experts.

In fact, Shiffer was awarded the 2016 international James Dyson Award. Her invention won the national prize and the international prize, which came with about $50,000 to further her design.

So what's next? Shiffer is hoping the helmets will eventually be found at bike-sharing docks around the world. They'd have to install vending machines, and they'd be sold for less than $5 or be given out for free.

"It's easily bendable," she said. "Not every city is equipped to add vending machines to the bike share, but since you can pack so many of them into a small space, I think distribution options are dramatically expanded."

Convincing bicyclists it can do the job might be the easy part, though. The hard part might be convincing them they'll look good wearing them.

"I've had some incredibly awesome responses," she said. "People are like, 'Aw this is going to save lives, this is so cool.' And others are like, 'I'm not putting a paper thing on my head.'"