Helmets locked on the rear fender of e-bikes. Photo: Courtesy of Wheels
Micromobility provider Wheels — whose shared scooter-bikes aim to make riding safer with bigger wheels, a lower center of gravity and the ability to stand or sit — is now outfitting them with a shareable smart helmet.
Why it matters: Riding a scooter or bike without a helmet is like driving in a car without a seatbelt, but nobody wants to carry around a helmet all day for a quick jaunt. By making it easier — and more sanitary — to use a shared helmet, these micromobility devices could become safer.
The big picture: A recent UCLA study found that head injuries were the most common among 249 emergency room patients admitted after electric scooter accidents in California.
- A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study in Austin, Texas, found that almost half of riders admitted with injuries from e-scooters had head injuries, and 15% had traumatic brain injuries. Only 1 of the 190 patients was wearing a helmet.
- A study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery found a link between the increase in head injuries and the rise in e-scooter usage, and concluded that such injuries “could be significantly reduced by the wearing of a protective helmet.”
- The National Transportation Safety Board says that wearing a helmet reduces the likelihood of head injuries for cyclists by 48%, and serious head injuries by 60%.
What's happening: West Hollywood, Calif.-based Wheels is adding free helmets to its bikes, with a biodegradable headliner than can be peeled off before each use.
How it works:
- The Wheels helmet locks into the rear fender of the bike, and riders can unlock it for free via the app.
- Once unlocked, the rider can adjust the fit and peel off the headliner for a fresh use.
- The company is offering riders a 20% discount on their ride when sensors in the bike recognize that the helmet has been unlocked and is being used.
- When the ride is over, the bike can detect that the helmet was returned and locked back onto the bike.
What to watch: The integrated helmet system is being rolled out first in Los Angeles, and if it has the desired results, the company plans to expand it to its entire fleet, which today includes San Diego, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Scottsdale, Cleveland, and Stockholm.