Portland researchers behind major new helmet tech launched by Trek/Bontrager

WaveCel’s “collapsible cellular membrane” showed much better results in initial lab tests than traditional foam or MIPS.

A local company has played a major role in the development of a new helmet released today by Bontrager, a bicycle part and accessory brand owned by Trek Bicycle Corporation.

Bontrager says the WaveCel technology used in their new line of helmets, “disrupts 30 years of accepted safety standards.” The company says research proves WaveCel is up to 48X more effective than common expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam at preventing concussions caused while cycling. The “collapsible cellular material” was developed by Dr. Steve Madey, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Michael Bottlang, a biomechanical engineer. Madey and Bottlang work for Apex Biomedical, a company with a laboratory in Clackamas and an office in downtown Portland. Their research was performed at the Legacy Research Institute in north Portland. Madey and Bottlang worked with Trek and Bontrager’s research and design teams for four years developing the material.

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Tips for tackling toddler helmet hesitancy

Decorations — like these R2D2 stylings for a Star Wars themed ride — make wearing a helmet fun.
(Photos by Madi Carlson)

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

There’s no debate about helmet use for kids (heck, even most kids in Copenhagen wear them!). Opinions aside, it’s an Oregon law that everyone 15 years or younger has to wear one. But that doesn’t mean it’s as easy as snapping a buckle.

Getting a helmet on a kid is one of the toughest parts of family biking.

Over the years I’ve developed my own collection of tricks to take the hassle out of helmets. Today we’ll talk about where to buy them, choosing the right one, how to fit them — and of course, how to have fun while doing it.

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A new campaign aims to make helmets available for Biketown users

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Aaron Feiger in the news.
Aaron Feiger in the news.

There’s a new effort to increase the rate of helmet use on Portland’s Biketown bike share system.

35 year-old Woodlawn neighborhood resident Aaron Feiger has launched an online petition, Facebook page and guerrilla marketing campaign aimed at persuading the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Biketown operator Motivate to make helmets available at bike share stations.

As first reported Sunday night by KATU, Feiger says he’s motivated by a simple goal: making riders safer.

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As Portland becomes famous in Japan, local firms will show off bike products

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A handmade leather “can cage” is one of the Portland-
made products Walnut Studiolo will be offering
Japanese bike lovers.

Portland is, city officials say, big in Japan right now. Two admired local bike accessory makers are looking to ride that cultural wave.

Fashionable headgear design firm Nutcase Helmets and Walnut Studiolo, a maker of custom leather products, will send their owners to Japan next month as part of a delegation of nine local businesses that are lining up distribution in the world’s fourth-largest economy.

The one-week trade mission on April 13-19 is organized by the Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development agency, to “make the most of Japanese interest in all things Portland,” as its website says. Grants from two state trade programs will pay some of the cost for participants.

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Senate committee takes no action on bike helmet bills

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Vancouver Helmet Law Protest Ride-14.jpg

A bill to increase the minimum
helmet age was discussed in a
Senate hearing earlier this week.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The two bicycle helmet bills in the Oregon legislature made more waves in the media than in actual debate from lawmakers during a hearing held in Salem on Monday. The bills garnered media attention because they were an opportunity to pit the safety of our children (who could be against that?!) against bicycle advocates who feel mandatory helmet laws are not always what they’re cracked up to be.

At the hearing on Monday even the Senator behind SB 741 and 742, Chris Edwards, seemed a bit uncomfortable with all the attention they’ve gotten. Toward the end of the hearing he said, “This bill is getting a disproportionate amount of focus.”

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Oregon Senator looks to strengthen mandatory helmet laws

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Sunday Parkways - Northeast -30

If she’s under 18, SB 742
would require her to wear a helmet.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland

State Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) is behind two bills this session that would strengthen Oregon’s helmet laws.

Sen. Edwards wants to raise the age limit for mandatory helmet use from 16 to 18 years of age (SB 742) and he wants to make helmet use mandatory for all ages when, “participating in an organized exhibition, competition or contest” (SB 741). Both bills are set for a hearing and possible vote in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee on March 25th.

According to Edwards’ Legislative Aide Holly Fifield, the concern over helmet use was brought to his attention during a meeting with a family last fall. “The family has a son who competes in skateboard competitions and that child has learned that there are benefits to not wearing a helmet [in competition],” wrote Fifield via email. Apparently judges in some skateboard competitions will award higher scores to people without helmets because the trick being performed is deemed to have a higher degree of risk. “So, if there were two athletes who performed the same trick successfully,” Fifield explained, “the judges would give a better score to the athlete who wasn’t wearing a helmet.” She said Sen. Edwards sees this as “a health concern.”

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Alta pitches helmet vending machines for Vancouver BC bike share

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Much has been debated about the how the use of helmets impacts bicycling rates (or doesn’t). Now the debate is finding a new battlegrounds among the burgeoning crop of bike-share systems throughout North America.

Vancouver B.C. is an interesting case. The city is lauded as a leader in bicycling (they’re even hosting the major international cycling conference Velo-City this week), yet they are saddled by an all-ages, mandatory helmet law. Like Portland, Vancouver is working on their roll-out of a bike-sharing system and many people are watching how the helmet equation plays out. After all, if helmets are mandatory, that means every person who checks out a bike-share bike must have one on.

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Responding to feedback, BTA clarifies and modifies helmet policy

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Rabbit on his tall bike-1

BTA says they’ll oppose
mandatory helmet laws “if
a bill does not advance cycling
in Oregon.”
(Photo © J. Maus)

In an email to members this morning, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Board President Stephen Gomez wrote a letter offering, “Clarity on the BTA’s helmet stance.”

The letter comes in response to a new helmet policy released by the BTA back in October. That policy, which came after tallying results from a member survey on the issue, rubbed many in the community the wrong way.

The key part of the policy some people expressed disappoint in was this: “If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.” While subtle, the new policy marked a shift toward a more pro-helmet stance than they’d had in the past. The BTA had previously been opposed — both philosophically and in practice — to laws that would make helmets mandatory for adults.

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BTA releases helmet policy, survey results

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Helmets on the Hawthorne Bridge
(Photo by Will Vanlue)

Using feedback gleaned from a recent survey, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) board of directors has formally adopted a policy on helmets. Here is the position statement as published on their blog this morning:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance supports state law that requires those under 16 to wear helmets while on a bicycle. Helmets are safety devices that make bicycling safer by mitigating injury in the event of a fall or crash. Our role as an advocacy organization is to push for safer cycling environments and making our roads more bike-friendly. Therefore, The Bicycle Transportation Alliance encourages the use of helmets by all cyclists.

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When it comes to helmet laws, language matters

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Bike camping at Champoeg St. Park-134

Mandatory helmet laws say
the little guy should wear one.
(Photos © J. Maus)

After reading about the helmet survey launched by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance last week, I wanted to share a cautionary tale about helmet laws. I live in Vancouver, Washington where we’ve been living with a mandatory, all-ages helmet law since 2008.

If you’re of the persuasion that mandatory helmet laws are a good thing, keep in mind that not all mandatory helmet laws are created equal and — as Vancouver is finding out with its 2008 ordinance — subtle wording can have a profound effect on the scope of the law.

Sidestepping the seemingly non-existent impact Vancouver’s law has had on helmet use, bike ridership and injury rates, it contains a few real-world complications that highlight why it’s important to pay attention to subtle wording.

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