The product, which has been given the Swedish name “Hövding” is worn around the neck and contains a folded up airbag that will only be inflated in the event of an accident.
“Hövding is a practical accessory that’s easy to carry around, it’s got a great looking yet subtle design, and it will save your life,” explains one of the product's inventors Anna Haupt.
The Hövding enables the image-conscious cyclist to enjoy the wind through their hair as they ply their path through the city streets, sure in the knowledge that sartorially at least, they are looking their best.
When activated, the airbag is shaped like a hood, surrounding and protecting the bicyclist’s head and is controlled by sensors that pick up the abnormal movements in the event of an accident.
“We wanted to make a head protection for bicyclists based on the demands that were presented in our surveys,” explains Terese Alstin who invented the product together with Anna Haupt.
The firm has received praise for its design panache and recently attracted a 20 million kronor ($3 million) from Industrifonden, an state-backed fund founded in 1979 which invests in small Swedish companies with international growth potential.
The funding has been earmarked to help the inventors develop the product further.
“We’ve kept an eye on the company since 2006 when they won the Venture Cup (the world’s biggest business plan competition),” said Lennart Gustafson, responsible for investments at Industrifonden.
“We are now convinced that the product lives up to the high safety requirements while still being an ergonomic and convenient helmet. It’s a very exciting company with great entrepreneurial drive and competence.“
While the collar is discreet, at least in comparison to your average bike helmet, the inventors have considered the fact that users may want to ensure that it fits their outfit and have developed a removable shell that can be changed as required.
Haupt and Alstin met while writing their masters theses in the field of industrial designers and together they came up with the idea that laid the foundations for developing Hövding.
“The law that had just been introduced in Sweden making bicycle helmets compulsory for children up to the age of 15 had triggered a heated debate on whether it should be extended to include adult cyclists too,” the pair explains.
“To people like us, who wouldn't be seen dead in a polystyrene helmet, the thought that we might be forced to wear one by law was cause for concern.”
Every year about 40 people die and about 30,000 are injured in bicycling accidents in Sweden. One in three bicyclists who are injured suffer head injuries. Alstin and Hupt think their invention will get more people to wear a helmet and decrease injuries.
Demand for the helmet which went on sale in the autumn, has been high and pre-orders of Hövding have been halted after the first production batch had already been sold out.
The helmet carries a price tag of 2995 kronor and will be sold in the company’s web shop and in the design store, Designtorget.