Hitting the ground in a serious bike crash is a horrible experience. Not only does it expose you to a head injury, but it can result in bodily injuries including a fractured wrist, a broken collarbone, a separated shoulder, or other conditions requiring hospitalization and/or surgery.
Representing the next level of safety innovation for cyclists riding in traffic, a Munich-based company named EVOC has recently launched a product that integrates an airbag system into a protector backpack for cyclists who commute to work, school, or leisure activities. Its purpose is to minimize the risk of injuries while cycling in urban areas.
EVOC teamed up with Minerva-AS GmbH, a Bavaria-based company specializing in work-safety airbags to create the Commute A.I.R. (airbag integrated rescue) Pro 18. This device also functions as a regular backpack with a 4.75–gallon storage capacity large enough to carry a laptop, glasses, cell phone, and more. It has an elastic side pocket for water bottles.
The Commute A.I.R. Pro 18 inflates in 0.2 seconds—that’s 200 milliseconds to full inflation of the airbag—and, through football-style inflatable shoulder pads, gives protection to the neck, shoulder, and chest areas of the body. At the heart of the system is a sensor-controlled, inflatable airbag that drastically reduces the force of impact in the event of a crash. When deployed, the impact force and braking acceleration (HIC – head injury criterion) acting upon the cyclist are reduced by up to 80 percent.
The triggering unit is permanently fixed to the airbag; it includes a battery, memory chips, and interfaces (USB/Bluetooth). The device weighs in at only 1.76 pounds and has 32 hours of battery life. In the event of a crash when the airbag has been deployed, it can be re-used with a new cartridge. There’s also a back protector integrated into the backpack.
A September 2021 article by David Kindy appearing in The Smithsonian magazine, states that the rechargeable and reusable system is controlled by sensors that analyze the location of the rider and backpack 1100 times per second. The Commute Air Pro 18 sensor connects to an electronic magnetic chest buckle around the waist. Once the wearer unsnaps it, he or she is safe to bend over and lock up the bike without deployment. Even if the airbags do inflate, they can be refolded and replaced inside the backpack to be used again, though the CO2 cartridge will need to be replaced.
What about the cost, you might ask. The revolutionary safety device is expected to go on sale this spring for around $1100. I’d like to hear some feedback from you as to whether you would buy and use this type of safety device, given that it functions as advertised. Considering the ever-increasing rise in medical costs, the safety protection factor of the Commute Air Pro 18 might potentially offset its high price tag. The sticker shock might be softened with the hopeful expectation of avoiding significant injury requiring surgery.