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


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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.


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....

Advertisement 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 beach 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).