I read a story yesterday about HelmetHub, a company offering bike helmet rental service in Boston. I did my homework, and the risks just aren't worth the rewards.
First off, I must applaud the group from MIT who started HelmetHub
. The thought behind the idea is commendable. I for one know first hand the tragedy that can result from not wearing a helmet
. However the folks at MIT disappointed me by not doing their homework on the risks of offering used helmets, and alternative solutions.
The inside of helmets is made of a special foam. Helmet Check.org published a list of helmets safety tips
that includes helmet care. Among these tips they mention more than once that exposure to strong cleaning agents or excessive heat can affect the integrity of the helmet. The referenced article akins the process to airline headphones or 3-D glasses, which is great if you want to watch a movie. When was the last time someone ended up in a coma from watching a movie? The guy who set the cruise control (auto-pilot) on his RV to catch up on his favorite TV shows doesn't count. All jokes aside, if you can't use cleaning agents or heat on these helmets, how exactly did you plan on sanitizing them?
It is no secret in our society that people don't take great care of rented equipment.
Yes, the article mentioned that HelmetHub will be conducting inspections on all returned equipment. I rented a car not long ago from a respectable rental car agency, which was a non-smoking car in which they charge a $150 cleaning fee for smoking in the car. My son found half of a marijuana cigarette in the ash tray. I immediately called the company to complain, and they gave me 50% off my rental. If some cop was having a bad day like this one was
, I'm pretty sure the "I didn't know it was there" or "Its a rental car, must have been there from the last person" excuse wouldn't have cut it, and I would be writing this blog post on a roll of toilet paper from the inside of a jail cell.
My point is this, no matter how well intentioned the company may be, the consequences are yours to share. Yes, maybe if the investigation proves that the guy getting paid just over minimum wage didn't do a complete and proper inspection Helmet Hub may help cover the costs of your medical care, but my guess is the lawyer they hire will probably point to the inspection guidelines
that say even with careful measuring, damage can be hard to miss.
I'd be part of the problem if I just shot down someone else's solution to the idea, without providing my own. I thought long and hard about this idea. I understand that there is a considerable amount of manhours to account for in order to keep the machines stocked with fresh helmets, which most of the cost of the rental goes to cover.
Let a non-profit run this initiative.
As I operate Helmets for Hope, my organization gets reduced pricing on helmets. I am confident that my supplier will extend this pricing to other initiatives. They are 100% brand new, meet all applicable safety criteria, and costs our organization less than $5 a piece. With the Pledge My Power
program expanding into places like New York, with enough community support we can raise the ongoing funds to provide the manpower to support this initiative, as well as initial equipment costs.
The benefits of this plan include the ability to fund an awareness truck that drives throughout the city, stocked with helmets. Drivers would have the option to stop when a child was riding without a helmet and be able to give them a helmet and or literature on the spot. Drivers could also help with a positive rewards campaign, such as this one a New Jersey police department is undertaking
By offering brand-new helmets, we offer riders the peace of mind. After all, we wear helmets because we want that peace of mind, and prefer not to have a piece of our mind scattered on the sidewalk somewhere.
Do you trust a for-profit organization to ensure that the inspectors are thoroughly trained? I for one am afraid it will turn out to be some single mom paid $8 an hour to stand over a conveyor belt, who is bound to make a mistake, that's if the helmets collected by the machine actually make it that far.