A group of artists around the world is teaming up with motorcycle manufacturers to distribute creative hand-painted helmets

A group of artists around the world is teaming up with motorcycle manufacturers to distribute creative hand-painted helmets

Neils Peter Jensen, a German motorcyclist and designer, started Helmets for India in 2019. Witnessing a road accident on a street in Mumbai was a turning point. “That kid had a chance of getting away with it if only he had a helmet,” Jensen says. Since then, Helmets for India has distributed over 482 specially designed helmets to cyclists and young passengers across Maharashtra and Goa.

Wearing a helmet is a life-saving decision. According to a report on road accidents from the World Health Organization published in September 2021, wearing a helmet correctly can lead to a 42% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69% reduction in the risk of injuries to the head.

According to the report, Road accidents in India 2019published by the Ministry for Road Transport and Highways Transport Research Wing of the Government of India, failure to wear helmets caused 44,666 fatalities – 30,148 drivers and 14,518 passengers, accounting for 29.82% of the total number of road traffic fatalities. road accidents in the country.

At a rally of bikers at The Farm, Chennai, Jensen seems excited about his journey to 2022. “For me, children are the best vehicles to absorb this message. Every conversation has a ripple effect. Once you get teens and tweens to wear helmets on a bike, you can make sure they pass that message on to their families,” he says.

Helmet illustration by Vincent Kamp

Helmet illustration by Vincent Kamp

The supply of helmets is not the problem, the attitude is, says Jensen: “There are so many companies that make reliable helmets for children and adults, it’s about making that investment and follow.”

Initially, Jensen sourced helmets from manufacturers across Europe and shipped them to artists for design, then to India for distribution. “I was spending out of pocket, which was draining my resources, and coordination was so difficult. Then the pandemic hit and the sources of income dried up. Thanks to the lockdown in Europe, Jensen has reached out to motorcycle manufacturers: Royal Enfield entered the fray in July 2020. “Now the supply of helmets and the logistics have become much easier. I don’t have to worry about that,” he said.

Messaging is of paramount importance in the Helmets for India campaign. “We need to create a positive image of helmet wearing, emphasizing safety, instead of bombarding cyclists with negative images of accidents. Our aim is not to give away helmets for free, but to constantly impressing their importance on the road,” adds Jensen.

Kaustav Das' custom helmet

Kaustav Das’ custom helmet

Meet the artists

Kaustav Das, an Assam-based motorcyclist-artist and co-founder of Moto Machao, has been associated with Helmets for India since its inception, designing two helmets for the campaign. “Neils and I drove from Pune to Goa, following coastal roads. We stopped on the way when we saw families on two wheels, with only the rider wearing a helmet. We try to reiterate that using a helmet is not just to avoid a fine, but to protect your life.

Like Das, artists from the UK, USA, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Spain, Denmark, Germany and India receive their helmets via Royal Enfield. They design them and the helmets then make their way across Europe. Jensen explains, “Before giving these helmets to the riders, we use them to raise funds. This year we will be showcasing our helmets in Berlin in August, and I will be returning to India to donate the funds to NGOs and hospitals working with children injured in road accidents.

Malou Kalay, a former policewoman turned artist from the Netherlands, hands over her monochrome helmet to Jensen in Chennai. Black crows juxtapose the pristine white background of the helmet, “Crows remind me of India,” says Kalay.

Malou Kalay

Malou Kalay

She adds: “Being a former cop, I worked with traffic safety and this message is close to my heart. I ride motorcycles across my country, and wearing a helmet is the simplest and most important riding accessory.

As the Helmets for India campaign seeks to spread its wings across the country, impacting riding communities across states, Jensen says, working with local law enforcement is an important way to get the message out. “When we drove through Goa and saw cops fining passengers who didn’t have helmets on, we asked them if we could hand out a helmet instead of the ticket. They accepted and that day we distributed our equipment to happy runners.

Jensen has seen some recipients looking to sell their free headsets, but he doesn’t mind. He concludes: “Even if someone sells the helmet, it can only be used to protect you.”

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