CAMBRIDGE, MA -- A group of undergraduate students at MIT are working with the city of Boston to create a vending machine that dispenses helmets to bicycle renters.
A prototype machine is dubbed HelmetHub, and is designed to serve riders of Hubway, a bicycle-sharing system with 60 solar-powered touchscreen rental kiosks that launched in Boston last summer.
Tourists and local residents reportedly made more than 140,000 trips in four months with the 600 rental bikes, according to The Boston Globe. But only 30% of bike renters were spotted wearing headgear by city officials. This compares with more than 70% of bikers seen wearing helmets while riding their own bikes.
Meanwhile, the city has encouraged bike safety by persuading retailers to carry steeply discounted helmets, sold in the $7.50 price range that helmet-maker Bell reserves for nonprofits and government. It's hoping the conveniently placed vending machines will encourage further helmet usage.
The HelmetHub prototype features a solar-powered touchscreen and reportedly occupies half the space of a typical full-size soda machine. It dispenses helmets that adjust to fit most head sizes. They would allow those who purchase the $8 helmets to return them for a partial refund.
Plans are in the works for developing a beta version that could be ready for testing by Hubway riders as early as next summer, The Boston Globe reported.