Fold-away €5 bike helmet wins Dyson award

Lightweight design for bike share schemes uses honeycomb to protect head from impact

A foldable, recyclable helmet for users of bike share schemes has won the €40,000 International James Dyson Award.

The EcoHelmet was the brainchild of Isis Shiffer, a graduate from the Pratt Institute of Design in New York City.

The lightweight design, which should retail at under €5, uses a unique honeycomb configuration to protect the head from impact, and folds flat when not in use.

A biodegradable coating makes it resistant to rain for up to three hours.


It is designed to be folded up and put in a bag to be used it again, however its life span will depend on how often it is used and how much exposure it has to the elements.

At the end of its life it is recyclable and can be put in a green bin.

As part of the development plan, Ms Shiffer is looking at creating an indicator to tell users when the helmet has reached the end of its life.

Around the world, including in Ireland, bike share programmes are on the rise and are used by millions of people. But users rarely wear helmets.

Last year, nine cyclists died on Irish roads while, in the US, the number was over 800.


The cell structure of EcoHelmet distributes any impact evenly around the head as effectively as a traditional polystyrene helmet. It will protect the user from a blow coming from any direction.

The simplicity of its construction, coupled with its inexpensive materials, will keep the manufacturing cost low. Shiffer says she plans to sell each unit at bike share stations for $5 (€4.70) per helmet.

“I was lucky enough to be studying at Royal College of Art and the Imperial College of London for a semester, and was granted access to [its] crash lab,” Shiffer said.

“They had a European standard helmet crash setup that allowed me to gather enough data on EcoHelmet’s proprietary honeycomb configuration to know it was viable and worth developing.”

Commenting on the winner, James Dyson said the product solved an obvious problem with a simplicity that “belies an impressive amount of research and development”.

The James Dyson Foundation was set up in 2002 to support design engineering education, medical research and local charities in the UK.


International runners-up this year included Respia, from Australia, an asthma management system that tracks and records the user's respiratory health and medication use, and Smart Contact Lens Platform from Canada which uses engineering and nanotechnology to create a contact lens with a sensor that can continuously monitor glucose levels in diabetics.

In September, the winners of the Irish leg of awards were announced among the top 20 global finalists.

HydroFLOcean (H-FLO) is a safety device designed to prevent workmen getting trapped under water designed by a team of engineering students from Cork Institute of Technology.

The idea was inspired by the deaths of stonemason TJ O'Herlihy and bricklayer Bryan Whelan, who were killed in Limerick last year when the platform on which they were working collapsed into the River Shannon.

Using the same inflation device employed in life jackets to activate a gas canister, it forces the device to split in two when underwater, separating workers from platforms.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times