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Obama defies safety advocates, shuns bike helmet, looks great, ignites debate


In an obvious bid to broaden public support for his troubled healthcare reform plans, a vacationing President Obama has now taken to defying the advice of safety advocates at both the federal and state levels.

The bold move, coming in late August when there's little else to prattle about except homicides and deaths (also wildfires), is certain to create continental controversy among several people concerned about hats worn during recreation.

Future Democrat president Barack Obama refusing to wear a bike helmet in earlier years

Such open defiance of proper head healthcare is actually not new for Obama, who began the helmet-less practice even as a child in Hawaii (see photo left).

On Thursday, the nation's first father did have his two young daughters don the protective headgear for a bicycle ride on Martha's Vineyard, an island preserve for rich people just off the coast of Massachusetts.

But as commander-in-chief and national role model, ex-Sen. Obama declined to wear a helmet. His allegedly protective detail did not insist. And the ocean breezes no doubt felt wonderful flowing freely around his cool shades and over his naked head. He looked like a trillion bucks.

Last summer on vacation in Hawaii Obama was famous for not wearing a shirt over those naked, now presidential pecs. This summer the famous photo will be him not wearing a helmet.

During a 2008 bicycle ride with his family in the urban wilds of Chicago, the wannabe president did wear one of those goofy-looking helmets that make your forehead sweat and fog up sunglasses. (See photo below.)

And some disrespectful bloggers sitting on their broad behinds in air-conditioned work spaces poked.... at the ambitious, do-gooding, Democratic community organizer obediently following the rules of people who think they know best what to require others to do.

But now that (despite the troublesome birth certificate issue) the Illinois politician has been elected as the most powerful person on Earth, he has, in effect, told helmet supporters to go chew on his chin strap.

This flash of rule-rejecting libertarianism could help with his sinking poll numbers and rally public support for Obama's legislative reforms in the area of healthcare, where so many people who do not wear protective helmets end up because parts of their preexisting brain are damaged in unprotected, single-payer falls.

The president did not break any laws during his rebellious helmet-free fling. Not that it matters because, frankly, the Secret Service guys and gals just outside the photograph can out-gun even the most helmet-conscious beFuture Democrat president Barack Obama riding a bike in Chicago 2008ach patrol.

In the interests of protecting Bay Staters whether they want it or not, Massachusetts does require helmets on motorcycle riders and anyone on a bicycle from age 1 through 16.

If you are younger than 365 days, the state prohibits you from even being on a bike, presumably as a passenger.

Interestingly, Obama's home state of Illinois, where he was a state senator, is one of only two states that has no helmet laws about anybody riding anything anywhere.

(Hint: The other state is next door, also begins with I and has the nation's first presidential caucuses).

Twenty-one states -- plus, predictably, the District of Columbia -- have laws requiring helmeted bicyclists.

Because they have so successfully solved all other conceivable issues, conscientious legislators earning per diems in other states such as California have passed laws requiring everyone to strap on a helmet the moment they even contemplate a bike ride. Or see one on television.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credits: Alex Brandon / Associated Press (cool president on vacation); Associated Press (geeky president-to-be in Chicago, 2008).

Comments () | Archives (42)

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"chew on my chinstrap! ' too funny!

Are helmets required on auto drivers where they would have the greatest benefits? Of course not, lobbying pays and the living a life free and independent isn't an alternative in the USA. DOTs win, people lose.

If you have nothing to protect, don't bother wearing a helmet. Pretty much sums it up with Barry.

You forgot about him smoking;)

Good lord, in the space of one century, we've gone from a President who charged up San Juan Hill, hunted cape buffalo and took a bullet in the chest with aplomb to a guy who can't even go on a short bike ride with his kids sans helmet without scandalizing the electorate. Outside of the military, America has been completely woosified.

Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire. I think that's three states with no helmet laws according to your source.

(But when you look at New Hampshire it does have a law.)

The definition of a sweater is - something you wear when your mom is cold. The definition of a bike helmet is - something you make your kids put on to make sure the nanny state doesn’t jail you for child abuse. Yeah BO!

I am an avid cyclist. If I am going to be riding in close proximity to vehicular traffic for more than a few blocks, I generally wear a helmet. If I am on residential streets or on bike paths, I don't bother. Getting hit by a vehicle is about the only way I could see hitting the ground or something else hard enough, without having enough time to react and protect my head with my arms. And I say this all as a conservative who is not a big fan of Obama, in the least.

Wow. Talk about brainlessly fawning coverage.

How pathetic.

He "looks like a trillion bucks"? That would cover the cost of the stimulus. How about the $9, ooo,000,000,000 + that we don't have and will have to borrow over the next decade..

Don't know about the chart but just take your minor for a ride past a state cop and see what happens

Having fractured my skull in a bike crash at age 11 (hit pothole on way home from school) and as an adult having broken my helmet, twice, in crashes (sliding off the side of improperly banked road, etc), riding a bike without a helmet is just plain dumb. Period.

He is a rebel! He knows no fear! Obama is a living God, so of course he doesn't need to bother with a bicycle helmet.

How do we know the photo of the boy on the tricycle is Obama?

I could care less (but it would be difficult) whether he wears a bicycle helmet. I give him good marks for making his kids wear them.

This post rocks.

California's mandatory helmet law applies only to youth age 16 and under.

How did I ever survive countless falls from my Huffy, jumping off ramps ala Knevil? Oh,yeah, that's right, I never tried to break my fall with my head.

No helmet? Who cares? His nanny-state rules don't apply to him. Actually NO rule apply to him, especially the rules requiring natural born citizenship!

That question won’t go away until obama releases his hidden records. All he has to do is make the following official public statement,

"I Barack Obama authorize the State of Hawaii to release and make public all of my records on file."

That's it. Issue over. But he won't because he's a fraud!! Obama knows that millions of citizens want to see it yet he continues to hide it. What and why is he hiding?

And maybe more disturbing is why don't BHO's supporters want to know the whole truth, especially since there's a reward that continues to be increased (currently $25 million) for proof that Obama is a "natural born" citizen of the United States? The answer is that Obama’s very own supporters also know he’s a fraud but choose to overlook it for political agenda reasons!


What's the big deal anyways? He's a big boy and can make the decision himself about what's best for his safety.

Note: The article says one of two states with no helmet laws, yet the cited website clearly shows three. (IA, IL and NH)

You failed to note the most egregious of the Obama family apparel - the little one is wearing a Peace T-Shirt. OMG!

It is the holy month of Ramadan where muslims like Obama are not allowed to wear anything on their heads. His children are, so that leads me to think he's not raising his children in his Kenyan ways. I wonder if his wife knows? This story is just one more chink in the armor and one day closer to the impeechment of BO for being a fraudulent, foreign born President. If he's not out by 2010, VOTE REPUBLICAN AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT. It probably does. One more term of BO and ACORN is going to be running the country.

New technology - invisible helmet spotted on POTUS!
Like the emperor's new clothes.

Abe Lincoln wore a hat and see where that got him?

Obama's got enough on his plate without having to fret about the media making a ruckus out of his riding a bike without a helmet. He was elected to solve problems, not to be a perfect role model in all areas of life. He smokes a bit still--does that mean we should all smoke a little?
Let him do his job. His riding a bike helmetless with his children (and thus, riding at child-speed) is not worth covering or criticizing. It's the law for his children, and they probably aren't as coordinated as he is. I'd trust Obama to make his own call on what he puts on his head or doesn't. Lord knows we trust him with a lot more than that.

Why is it that every story on the president draws comments from nutty birthers and even nuttier "fiscally responsible" Republicans? For the millionth time, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, and this has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt for all reasonable, sane, reality-based citizens.
As for the debt, Republican didn't have a word to say when Bush and the Republican Congress were doubling the national debt, throwing money to their corrupt cronies as fast as they could print it. Of course, Republicans are never fiscally responsible when they're actually in power.
By the way, with or without a helmet, our Prez look cool.

Even if Obama gets killed or incapacitated in a fall, we have Joe Biden to step in. Also, Obama's younger daughter isn't wearing her helmet correctly in the photo. Oh, and more power to the guy who can use his arms to protect his head during a 15 mph fall.

When will Obama prove that tricycle isn't Kenyan? Somebody wants their country back, or something.

Whether a helmet is required by law or not isn't the issue. As the President he needs to always be conscious of public image and wearing a bike helmet is not only good image, but good safety. And I completely fail to understand Mr. Malcolm's reference to the Secret Service being nearby. If the President were to fall, they would not be able to catch him before he hit the ground, whether they're able to out-gun the beach patrol or not.
Further, Mr. Malcolm makes reference to disrespectful bloggers while himself being disrespectful to the many bicycle riders who do wear "those goofy-looking helmets that make your forehead sweat and fog up sunglasses".
Mr. Malcolm, in his rant about others' rantings, has successfully demonstrated his distaste for bicycle helmets. If he doesn't want to wear one, don't, but please don't berate others for being concerned for their own, or the President's, safety.

This is one of B.O.'s stupider moments, like bowing to King Abdullah and saying that the U.S. has "57 states". Hopefully, his lovely daughters won't take after their dad's lack of good judgement--they luckilly didn't get his Ratatouille ears, either.

A bash on the noggin can cause a fatal head injury, even at low speed. While looking out for his children, Obama should mind his own head. All the Secret Service men's sidearms won't save him from a spill onto a rock. And whatever one thinks of B.O., he shouldn't put his kids through losing their dad.

haha this article is AWESOME! I've been missing my daily dose of political humor with The Daily Show on vacation. This was the perfect substitute. Thanks!

Of course, by now, all americans seem to have learned and understood that the main function and merits of the bicycle is to crack your skull.
Indeed, bicycles are way way way more dangerous than firearms...

Just fits along with his liberal agenda - "Do as I say, not as I do".
Worst president since Jimmy Carter

Why should he wear a helmet???? He campaigned for socialized health care to which a significant number of imbeciles rallied against and seemingly hampered. So, if we have to live with private health care I figure he can do whatever he wants.
If our health care is socialized, only then I may criticize him for not wearing a helmet because the small probability of him having a cranial trauma would effect us all in a very small way.

Even if Mr. Obama is "uncomfortable" wearing a helmet while riding his bicycle, what about the example he is or isn't setting for his children?

I own a bike shop and have seen many, many cracked and bloody helemts over the years. I try not to chide my adult clients for their choices but do think that asking your children to do something and then blatantly doing just the opposite is strange indeed.

you love to play basktball forever and me too

WOW i knew he was a moron!

Kids are smarter than their father...maybe they should run the country!

I guess he goes with the present Land of Lincoln. What about those Hoosiers like Dan Quayle? I guess what can those Illinoisans think now that there beloved Schwinn bicycles are owned by Dorel Industries in Montreal,Canada. At least President Obama is riding and American designed bike from Trek based next door in the Badger State - Waterloo, WI. But I'd get rid of that big back fender!

But the Hawaii picture bad in another American sense - his bike is a Taiwanese-made Giant!

Here in Vancouver, BC, Canada we havethe whole plethora of Bike laws to deal with - you name it!

If the president wants to ride a bike without a helmet then shut up about it. Look to Europe, look to Canada...they don't tell everyone that wearing a helmet is going to save the world.

Look I am a bike dealer...I sell helmets...I'm also a rider...who hates wearing them around my neigborhood or on short trips to the grocery store or the library or like the president and a bike path doing maybe 10 MPH.

If I was riding like the President with his two little girls, I wouldn't wear one either. Stop being such a NAZI and let us have a bit of freedom here in the land of free speech. I'm so absolutely tired of reading all the people who are worried about helmet use as if it really matters. Get a life!!!

There are a lot of comments that seem totally unrelated to the story. I'm sorry that your life is so boring, folks.

Biking rocks! I'm glad our president is setting a healthy example. I still think he should have worn a helmet. I always say when I see people without a helmet, hey, if something happens to them, they may win a Darwin award. I thought our Pres. was smarter than that. But, considering he looks to be on a bike trail and is with his kids, he's probably going slow and in no danger.

The article was hilarious!

He is setting an excellent example showing that cycling is safe and that helmets are a matter of personal choice not some magic talisman as some would try to make you believe.

Population wide studies show that helmets make no difference. So whatever protection they do offer is not obvious enough to justify the belief that everyone must wear one.

Cycling is safe and less prone to head injury than walking or driving.

Why does the government make us wear a helmet anyway? What about personal responsiblity? You can make the same case for seat belts. Its none of their business!

Good for Obama! Cyclists rode for decades without helmets. What happened after 1990 to make them so vital?

obama can do whatever the hell he wamts he an adult!!! "such an obvious defiance"? get a life!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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