No one would have predicted in the 1960s, when cycling was all bicycle clips and wobbling country vicars, that by the insanely futuristic-sounding year of 2020, getting on your bike would be the coolest form of urban transport.Today, bicycles and ebikes, scooters, skateboards and even electric unicycles offer urbanites the win-win-win jackpot of exercise, affirmative environmental action and, often, getting to your destination faster than in old-fashioned cars. But there’s one drawback: it’s still awfully dangerous.
Hövding, the Malmö-based makers of this remarkable cycle helmet (and yes, I know it doesn’t look at all like a helmet) claims that even in safety-first Sweden, where driving is pretty mannerly, a cyclist is 28 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than a car occupant. The Hövding 3 is one of the cleverest, albeit superficially bonkers-est, tech products I have seen. Worn around the neck, where it feels like a heavy but reasonably comfy scarf, it is an airbag that inflates in 0.1 seconds to protect your entire head and neck when its electronics detect specific types of fall. Hövding explains that not just any fall will trigger inflation. So if the airbag were to blow up in a situation where it’s not supposed to, the company would replace it.
The Hövding 3’s circuitry, which is doubled up to ensure it always works and monitors your head movements 200 times a second, is programmed to recognise every known type of head-injury-threatening tumble. Stunt people simulated 3,000 accidents to build up a disaster database, from hit by a car to getting a stick in a wheel to sliding on wet leaves. And if your accident isn’t a known one, but makes the airbag deploy, it uploads the data to the cloud for others to benefit.
Hövding 3 is the version finally deemed perfect and ready for release worldwide, though previous iterations have been in use in Europe and Japan since 2012. I find it impressive but also scary that, with almost 200,000 Hövdings in use, it has deployed so far in more than 4,000 registered accidents, and is likely to have prevented head injuries in a good proportion of those. So if you buy one and it saves your life – you’re very welcome. It is also portable enough to keep in a briefcase, which can’t be said of lesser helmets.