Cardboard: the future of cycle helmets?

12.00 | 20 January 2014 | | 5 comments

An industrial designer has developed a recyclable bicycle helmet made from cardboard which he says gives four times more protection than a conventional polystyrene helmet (BBC News).

Anirudha Surabhi started thinking about the design of cycle helmets following a collision in which the helmet he was wearing cracked.

The solution he has developed substitutes the standard polystyrene design with intricately engineered paper. The ‘Kranuim’ concept was good enough to win a £20,000 grant from The James Dyson Fellowship.

Surabhi’s helmet features a sturdy cardboard grid encased in a plastic outer. It is lighter than a polystyrene helmet but reportedly offers four times the amount of impact protection. The cardboard is impregnated with an acrylic waterproofing agent in case water gets inside the helmet.

The BBC News report says that the basic idea behind a cycle helmet is to create a “mini crumple zone” that absorbs some of the energy and gives the skull and brain more time to slow down before coming to a stop.

Those extra few milliseconds can reduce the amount of compression in the brain and potentially make the difference between brain damage and a mild case of concussion.

Anirudha Surabhi’s design utilises paper to create a double-layer of honeycomb cut and constructed into a functioning helmet.

He said: "What you end up with is with tiny little airbags throughout the helmet. When you have a crash these airbags go pop, pop, pop, pop, pop all the way to the bottom, without the helmet cracking. That’s what absorbs the energy."

The design has been tested to European standards and when compared to a standard polystyrene helmet the results are impressive.

The paper helmet is already in the shops and joins a growing range of innovative alternatives to the polystyrene model.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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    Making something useless recyclable may be clever, but it doesn’t make it useful.

    All reliable evidence shows that cycle helmets are not effective in reducing risk to cyclists, and the biggest ever research project found an increase in risk with helmet wearing. has collected all publicly available evidence and critiques.

    Richard Burton, Bristol
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    Sounds good. I wonder if this is of the same construction?

    At just over £40 – a small price to pay for your life.

    Helen Luker, Nottingham
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    I know you can’t “put a cost on road safety” but £80 for a helmet is beyond the pocket of the vast majority of people. Perhaps when mass production starts it will help.

    Olly, Lancs
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    Nice idea and I’m in need of a new cycle helmet. I’ve managed to track one down, but at £79.99, I might wait a bit to see if the price falls before I buy.

    Martin – Suffolk
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    Interesting idea, good engineering. Just make it “trendy” somehow and people will use them without having to have new laws!

    Dave Finney, Slough
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