Helmets may be the most controversial piece of biking equipment. Some say they make riding safer; others that they don’t make cycling safe enough; still others that we should focus on safe driving, rather than safe cycling. For many, the decision about whether to wear one simply comes down to looks. Helmets mess up your hair and look dorky with street clothes, and, for many people, that’s reason enough to ditch the lid for their morning commute. A Brooklyn startup called Park and Diamond wants to help solve this problem—and in the process help reduce commuter-cyclist fatalities and injuries—with a new collapsible bike helmet ($160) that looks more like a hat than a piece of safety gear. Launched on Indiegogo earlier this month, the Park and Diamond Collapsible Helmet has already garnered 573 percent of its fundraising goal, with $286,621 and a month left to go in the campaign.
The soft-sided lid is made of polycarbonate, with EVA foam and a proprietary, patented composite material the company says absorbs and disperses three times as much energy as typical bike helmets. But unlike traditional models, the Park and Diamond helmet is thin, pliable, and breathable, and it folds up to roughly the size of a water bottle. A brimmed fabric layer slides over the polycarbonate shell to make the whole thing look like a baseball cap. (Park and Diamond says people will eventually be able to choose among different styles of outer layers. One promo video shows the helmet with a beanie-style piece on top.)
While the design is far less sporty-looking than a typical helmet, I’m not convinced it completely escapes dorkdom: as a cap it’s round and lumpy, and it’s a bit out of place paired with a chinstrap. But the ability to roll the whole thing up and shove it in your bag—rather than clip it to your bike, where it could get stolen, or to your backpack, where it’ll flop around—could make bike commuting safer and more approachable.