Paper Pulp Helmet aims to solve bike sharing safety conundrum


June 29, 2013

The Paper Pulp Helmet offers an affordable recyclable bicycle helmet for use with bike sharing schemes

The Paper Pulp Helmet offers an affordable recyclable bicycle helmet for use with bike sharing schemes

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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.

Source: Paper Pulp Helmet via Dezeen

About the Author
Dave Parrack Dave is a technology journalist with a ravenous appetite for gadgets, gizmos, and gubbins. He's based in the U.K., and from his center of operations writes about all facets of modern and future technology. He has learned more in his five years writing for the Web than he did in 11 years at school, and with none of the boring subjects thrown in to the mix. All articles by Dave Parrack

Good idea but it could use a little help in the design department. The prototype looks a bit silly.


Or, indeed, don't use helmets. It doesn't seen to eradicate the Dutch population.

Paul van Dinther

Oooooh. Stylish!


Bicycle helmets cost lives. They create the impression that bike riding is dangerous resulting in parents discouraging their children from riding bikes reducing the exercise that their children get leading to premature deaths costing more lifetime lost than than the helmets save.


And I thought I looked like a geek with a regular bike helmet.


SlowKlue must be a Tea Party Pinhead. While this design at best has an unfortunate appearance that will give life to the name "Melon Head" helmets are essential. Bike helmets have two functions, A: They visibly define the shape of a rider, and B: They protect the rider in most ordinary spills. Note that I listed visibility first. It is very more important that riders be perceived by surrounding traffic as a rider in that traffic. The second feature is that a helmet will do an excellent job of protecting a rider from head & neck injuries in most falls. Not wearing a helmet results in death or severe head & spinal injury in about 85% of falls. I have regularly used bikes as transportation for over forty years and I do not get on a bike without a helmet on. Riders who wear helmets know they have something to protect.


re; StWils

It was an English doctor who did the study.

All the helmet protect you from is falling over. Do you wear a helmet when you walk.

Adding weight to the head increases neck injuries.


Hmmm....but then I don't walk at 20mph either. Along with cars and other vehicles around me.

I can't imagine a bicycle helmet causing neck injuries. They weigh very little. Otherwise why are more motorcyclists out there with neck injuries. Those helmets weigh pounds more than a bicycle helmet.


re; VoiceofReason

The helmet does not protect from those 20 miles per hour either. Motor cycle helmets cause more neck injuries than bicycle helmets but remember the straw that broke the camel's back not because it was heavy but because it added that tiny bit of extra strain.


Bike helmets and the people that insist others use them are an indication of much of what is wrong with western society.

The only possible justification for wearing a bike helmet is the slight performance increase from better aerodynamics which frankly is not worth looking like a retard for.

RE StWils "A: They visibly define the shape of a rider ...Note that I listed visibility first"

STWils , Do you have a flag mounted to your bike? Do you wear a high visibility reflective vest every time you ride? Have you mounted strobing LED's to your head while you ride? All of these measure are more effective than a helmet for increasing visibility.

Also you state "Not wearing a helmet results in death or severe head & spinal injury in about 85% of falls" Assuming that every child that learns to ride a bike falls only once 85 percent of the population that learned to ride before 1985 should be traumatized by the carnage caused by bicycles.

If that figure was anywhere near correct China would have been entirely depopulated during the cultural revolution.


I've ridden a bike in city traffic for 30 years and never worn a helmet. the reason for my reluctance to wear one is twofold. The first reason is that I've yet to find a helmet that was even remotely comfortable and didn't distract me from concentrating on the traffic around me, the second is that the legal standards to which helmets are built are so feeble that the "benefits" of wearing a helmet are so severely compromised as to be negligible at best.


I have been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years, i have been hit 11 times, had 5 bikes destroyed beneath me, and had three helmets shattered/ broken. I have never been even partially at fault, unless you want to count being in the way as a delivery van ran a red light. Each helmet did it's job, and each one saved my head serious injury. Yes, they have some weight, but they do what they are supposed to do, they protect your head. Bicycle helmets DO NOT. they are styro, and a bit of plastic, and some poorly placed straps, at best, they seldom even cover the back of your head, but perch on top like a beenie, . the only advantages I have ever seen in them, is visibility (to be seen), and visibility (as a mount for a rear view mirror) These pulp helmets do neither. Could they have made them any uglier? At the very least, brighten them up with some yellow spray paint or something.


Wow. Captain Danger, your comments shock me. The statistic that STWils was trying to quote was that 85% of fatalities caused by bicycle accidents wouldn't be fatal if a helmet was worn.

As far as your comment: "Bike helmets and the people that insist others use them are an indication of much of what is wrong with western society." why don't you read up a little on what can happen if you don't wear a helmet. My niece's story is one that hits home for me ( )

Personally, I'm not sure whether I like the temporary helmet idea (water resistant for only 6 hours), although I'm sure it is better than the rental option, as I outlined in my article

Phillip Cameron

I think it is cool and green but it would be nice if they designed it better since it looks odd (at best). If one is renting a bike, it could fill a need (especially if it is low in price).

Perhaps one could decorate them to make them less odd and more appealling? Perhaps it has a lot potential in this area?

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