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Models in custom motorcycle helmets at the Ituen Basi Show (Photo credit: PopAfricana.com)Nigerian fashion designer Ituen Basi made bold statement about motorcycle road safety at the first ever Arise African Fashion Week in March. Instead of the studs and leathers that generally mark biker style, Basi used bright, cloth-covered custom motorcycle helmets to promote helmet use as a life-saving strategy.

Helmet Safety in Nigeria

Nigeria’s outdated infrastructure and congested roadways have long made motorcycle transport a faster, more desirable alternative to cars; the same factors have also made them the least safe option. Victims with spinal injuries are admitted almost daily to Nigerian hospitals.

City streets teem with zippy okadas, the commercial motorcycles that carry passengers for hire. After decades of alarmingly high mortality rates amongst these motorcyclists, a law was passed in January of 2009 to make helmets mandatory for both drivers and passengers.

Okdada users did not respond well to the new safety legislation. Drivers (who earn around $0.50 per trip) bemoaned the hefty $25-30 price tag on helmets, and in certain areas prices shot up to $70 or more. Passengers feared drivers would fill the helmets with black magic, or use them to cast spells.

Ituen Basi: Helmet Safety as Fashion

Models in custom motorcycle helmets at the Ituen Basi Show (Photo credit: PopAfricana.com)Public resistance to safety gear led Ituen Basi to send each of her models out wearing a custom helmet during Africa’s 2011 Fashion Week. It was a way to harness the influential power of fashion and use it to shift public opinion on helmet safety.

“I felt that while spirited efforts are being made to raise awareness and educate people on the import of these helmets, we could contribute to making it ‘cool’, especially for the younger populace. Its acceptability could be more widespread if packaged differently,” Basi told LadyMoto.

The Nigerian designer says she will continue to raise awareness about motorcycle helmets and road safety through fashion campaigns and editorials.

“We are very pleased for the visibility the show created about helmets.”

To see the full Ituen Basi fashion line, visit Ituen Basi’s site.

Photos courtesy of Oroma Elewa, Pop Africana

Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com

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