US bikeshare startup Wheels have began supplying helmets with all their vehicles. It's integrated into the rear mudguard of the bike, and Wheels are offering a 20% discount if riders choose to unlock use of the helmet when they book a ride.
The Wheels 'e-bikes' are a cross between a bike and a scooter, with the rider seated as they would be on a pedal-powered bicycle but with footpegs rather than pedals. Wheels say they started the company to "offer a meaningfully safer option in the micromobility space"; and say the shareable helmet with a biodegradable headliner is an extension of Wheels' mission to provide sustainable, safe and accessible transportation to reduce traffic.
The headliner can be peeled off before each use, and the helmet can be unlocked for free at the start of each ride with sensors recognising if it's been used. It's adjustable, and Wheels are even offering riders a 20% discount for unlocking and using the helmet. Wheels say: "It’s simply not practical for riders to carry their own helmets around with them.
"In just the first few years of having shared mobility programs in our cities, one trend is already clear: riders don’t carry helmets around with them. E-bikes and scooters are designed to offer convenience for distances when walking would be too far and driving would be unnecessary."
Interestingly Wheels didn't appear to feature helmeted riders in most of their social media content until recently, and point to studies and research about had injuries amongst e-scooter riders for their U-turn.
Wheels cite a recent UCLA study that shown out of 249 patients admitted from electric scooter accidents in California, the most common types of injury were head injuries that occurred when the patient wasn't wearing a helmet. Another study from Texas found that 0.5% of riders admitted to hospital were wearing helmets. Wheels continue: "It has been over 50 years since the United States first required cars to be manufactured with seat belts. This is now such an obvious safety requirement that no one even thinks about it. Car companies don’t hand out seat belts to car owners suggesting the driver and passengers bring it with them every time they ride in a car. A car comes with seat belts, period.
"We believe the same logic certainly applies to helmets for a scooter or bike that shares the road with cars. Simply stated, a micromobility device is only complete if it includes a helmet.
"We hope that riders recognise that a helmet can save their lives. When one is offered to you for free without requiring you to carry one around, using it is a no-brainer."
Recently a US government agency called for a mandatory cycling helmet law; although opponents to these laws, which already exist in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, maintain that evidence does not support the assertion that they improve the safety of riders. There is also evidence to suggest that it discourages people from riding bikes in the first place, leading to a negative impact on public health in general.
Wheels currently operate in a number of US states and in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, with plans for further expansions soon - because they aren't pedelecs there are very few places you could legally ride a Wheels e-bike on the road in the UK, but hopefully those rules will be relaxed in the future...
Do you think Wheels' on-board helmet idea is a good one, and will it increase rider safety? Let us know in the comments.