World first: the bicycle airbag

A new Swedish invention could spell the end of bad hair days for bike riders.

A Swedish design house has created a potentially life-saving fashion accessory for cyclists.

The Hovding airbag collar has been designed to provide a safe alternative to the bicycle helmet without the detrimental effect that stack-hats tend to have on one's hairdo.

Designed to wrap around the cyclists neck like a scarf, the Hovding (which means Chieftain in Swedish) will deploy an airbag in the form of a hood if its in-built sensors detect a potential head impact.

The sensors are able to detect an over-the-handlebars accident, a rear impact, and even if the rider simply falls off the bike sideways.

The designers of the Chieftain, Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt, predict that the collar airbag will be a big hit when it goes on sale in Europe next year, priced at about $500.

The pair teamed up at Sweden's University of Lund, completing a thesis on helmet use which culminated in Sweden introducing a law for all children under the age of 15 to wear helmets.

The company's website states that the Cheiftain has been designed specifically for commuters, and that more extreme cyclists should still wear regular helmets.

The Cheiftain has been designed for those cyclists who'd prefer not to wear a helmet - and there's a strong push locally for helmet laws to be overturned.

In 1991, Australia became the first country in the world to introduce mandatory helmet use for cyclists, and as the number of cyclists on the road increases, there have been calls for the laws to be quashed.

Sydney University's School of Public Health associate professor Chris Rissely recently told the ABC that there has been no decrease in head injuries since the helmet laws were introduced, claiming the number of cycling related injuries has remained steady since the 1980s.

"What it does is it puts people off cycling and makes people think that cycling's a dangerous activity, even though it's a really healthy thing to do and it increases people's physical activity," he told the ABC.

"And you're seeing things like in the Melbourne bike hire scheme - it's not working as well as it has in the rest of the world because people don't walk around with a helmet just in case," Rissely is quoted as saying. "You've got helmets creating a barrier to cycling, particularly spontaneous, short-trip cycling."

From Harden-Murrumburrah Express