Monthly Archives: February 2009

Air bags for motorcyclists

The BBC today covered an article on how an “air bag jacket” could save lives. A doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital in London wants these jackets to be made compulsory. The Department of Transport said it “had no plans for a new law but welcomed anything to improve safety.”
Link to story

Whilst I agree in principle that an air bag jacket seems to be a good idea, my immediate question is, how is it triggered? Obviously by some sort of cable that attaches you to the bike, which breaks when you fall off. Fine, but what happens if you just drop your bike (as opposed to falling off at motorway speeds)? I have twice embarrassingly fallen off whilst doing no more than 2mph, and a deploying air bag jacket in these situations would just be nonsensical.

WebBikeWorld have done a fairly interesting writeup on the jacket, but in my opinion more flexibility is needed; many riders have existing jackets which would need to be replaced. It would be better if these air bags could be worn under (or perhaps even over) existing clothing.

Then I read about the Airetronics air bag vest, again on WebBikeWorld. A much better idea; as I could wear something like this over my existing leather jacket, but under my high-viz coat. However, the author points out that the triggering mechanism requires only a small amount of force to inflate the vest. So if you forget to unplug it before getting off the bike: Pssssssssss.

Oh dear.

As WebBikeWorld says, “Perhaps the next step will be some type of range sensor that can trigger the inflation — armed when the bike starts but intelligent enough to realize that if the bike is traveling at less than, say, 5 mph, the device will not inflate when the rider leaves the area.”

So in theory, air bags for motorcyclists is a good idea. The practicality isn’t quite there yet.