HelmetHub is a bicycle helmet vending system. It is being developed by MIT students undertaking the Prototypes to Products class. The City of Boston reached out for a solution to clear safety concerns directly resulting from the increasing adoption of bikeshare programs.
With over 17,000 bikeshare systems operational worldwide it’s easier than ever to rent a bicycle, but the convenience of helmet access has not evolved in-step. The Boston Bikeshare experience shows that only 30% of rental system users wear a helmet. This is less than half the rate for other riders.
The HelmetHub has several design features that make it sustainable for the rigors of city use. The first thing you’ll notice is the narrow width for efficient use of tight city sidewalk space, and the user interface is just like that of the bikeshare system. There’s no need for external power hook-up as they draw everything they need from a solar panel, this makes installation much more efficient and keeps costs low.
Working with Bell Helmets they will dispense helmets for only $8, and these can be returned after the ride. That’s a small price to pay for the added safety of a helmet.
Not content with simply creating this innovative safety solution, the MIT students are rolling out an aggressive global business plan for HelmetHub. Beginning with 20 beta testing units in Boston this summer, they plan to sell an additional 500 units to municipalities for installation in 2013. Their 5 year plan calls for 6,200 unit sales. With bikeshare growth currently running at 70% per year I have no doubt that they are well positioned to successfully execute this plan.
The economics seem spot-on too, with break-even being achieved after only 2 years of service per unit.
This is a smart safety solution on so many levels. It seems reasonable for municipalities to offer helmet safety if they are going to the trouble of installing bikeshare systems. Not only will this help to protect tourists, it may also protect them from liability. I can see HelmetHub helping to expand the adoption of bikeshare systems especially in cities with compulsory helmet laws. I honestly don’t see how you can reasonably offer bikes without helmets.