bePRO motor-taxi helmet

Exhibition: Cities | October 5, 2011 by

In Uganda, boda boda is the term for the uncomfortable and accident-prone motorcycle taxis available throughout the country. Motorcycle-helmet use is mandatory by law; approximately 70% of boda boda drivers own helmets, but only half wear them. Seventy-five percent of hospital-reported injuries in the capital city of Kampala are from boda boda–related accidents; the World Health Organization estimates that helmets can reduce head-injury severity by nearly 75%.

Industrial designer Vanja Steinbru’s research in Kampala with boda boda drivers and passengers elicited numerous reasons as to why the majority of them choose not to wear helmets, including prohibitive cost, limited availability, and little understanding of the risks. Certified helmets are expensive and not designed for hot climates; they cover the ears, impeding drivers from hearing potential customers; and passengers are wary of sharing helmets for hygienic reasons.

Steinbru, with other Norway-based Design Without Borders designers, partnered with Makarere University in Kampala, Richenkoy Production Company, the Injury Control Center-Uganda (ICCU), and the Norwegian sports-helmet brand Sweet Protection to develop a new helmet aimed to reduce injuries for boda boda riders. The bePRO helmet will be locally produced using a readily available fiberglass composite, will meet safety standards, and be affordable. The design includes integrated ventilation, holes for hearing, durable closures, a hairnet worn under-helmet, and exterior graphics by urban artists. The first batch of helmets will have extra padding that conforms to a variety of head sizes.

Concept: Vanja Steinbru, Design Without Borders; development: Gonzaga Ntege, Kristoffer Leivestad Olsen, and Marianne Godding Boye, Design Without Borders, and Marcus Martinuzzi; graphic design: Ivan Bargiye, Design Without Borders. Partners: Richiencoy Services Ltd., Injury Control Center–Uganda, Technology Development and Transfer Centre, Makerere University, Norsk Form Foundation for Design and Architecture. Kampala, Uganda, 2009–present (prototype). Polyamide (nylon)

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