Today’s Headlines

8 27 09 obama_1.jpgNice sunglasses, but aren’t you forgetting something , Mr. President?
  • joey

    No, he is not.

  • LB

    I agree with joey.

  • I think the more disturbing thing is that Malia seems to be an Oakland Athletics fan…I guess it’s better than the White Sox but still, who’s raising these kids?!??!

  • Yeah, the president is missing fenders, integrated lights, an enclosed chain, and a rear luggage rack.

  • It’s a lightly traveled paved path in a vineyard riding at the pace of his family, there is little risk involved, yet people are giving him all sorts of grief about no helmet. Not to mention he was given all sorts of grief for wearing a helmet during the campaign calling him a dork, and that was in an urban trafficked area. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t it seems.

  • For the record, I don’t really care whether he wears a helmet or not. I was wondering what people thought so I threw it out there. I think he looks fine in last year’s shot and this year’s shots.

    But on the other hand, if a helmet isn’t important, then are Michelle, the kids, and even the Secret Service Guy wearing them?

  • DJB

    It sucks in a way that every detail of a President’s life is hyper-scrutinized, even when he’s on vacation, but hey, that’s the nature of job he campaigned for. I think the President of the United States should set a good example and wear a helmet.

    How many people have to die because wearing a helmet isn’t cool? Think of how many lives seat belts have saved.

    As more and more people start riding, this issue will get more and more important.

  • Erik G.

    The kids are wearing helmets because it is unfortunately the law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in which Martha’s Vineyard is found and has been found since it was transferred to the Province of Massachusetts Bay from the Province of New York in 1691:,_New_York

    Why do I write “is unfortunately the law”?

    Because while wearing a helmet can be a very good idea, making it mandatory reduces the attraction and sometimes even the availability of the health-beneficial activity that is bicycling.


    Do our cops really have extra time and resources to stop helmet-less bicyclists??

  • Erik G.

    If he goes skiing this winter, should he be wearing a helmet?

    Why not require them in cars? Or while walking? We can’t be too safe now!

  • DJB

    “Why not require them in cars? Or while walking?”

    Because in a car you’re already required to wear a seat belt (unless we’re talking about an NASCAR-type situation, in which case you are required to wear a helmet as well), and because pedestrians are generally not in the street and are going slowly enough to easily avoid vehicle impacts in most situations.

    Making helmets mandatory may very well reduce the appeal of cycling. I think this is because our culture is very perverse in this respect and labels helmets as uncool (maybe we just need to see more celebrities using them). On the other hand, you could have argued the same thing about seat belts and driving fifty years ago.

    Society has a right to impose reasonable safety measures on people in the interests of reducing road deaths.

  • Erik G.


    Seatbelt laws certainly never cause anyone to give up automobile use.

    And while you are saving society from road deaths (something a one-inch thick styrofoam shell actually doesn’t do well) you will be increasing society’s burden for deaths due to obesity and heart disease.

    To be truly safe from “road death”, shouldn’t we just ban bicycling all together??

  • DJB

    Well, the net effect on deaths would depend on the how many more people die from head impacts if helmets continue to be optional and how many fewer people die from heart problems because mandatory helmet laws didn’t exist to discourage them from biking.

    Bike bans are too extreme. People should be allowed to take some risks.

    Still, I think it makes more sense to attack the culture that discourages helmet use, than it does to attack the laws that attempt to keep people safe on their bikes. The problem isn’t helmets, it’s how we think about them.

  • DJB,

    “Attack the culture that discourages helmet use”?! WHA?!

    How about the culture that allows you to get next to a keyboard? That would be safer for all of us, because I almost punched my computer screen when I saw what you wrote.

    You statements belie an ignorance of what and how humans are injured and killed in traffic and on streets.

  • angle

    “The problem isn’t helmets, it’s how we think about them”.

    Well, no, the problem is not how we think about helmets. The problem is car vs. bike collisions.

    Don’t get me wrong – I would absolutely advise anyone that wearing a helmet is a good idea. However, their purpose is simply to mitigate the severity of head injuries once a collision has already occurred. They’re not a panacea for all of the issues that create dangerous conditions for cyclists on city streets.

    Lately, the most common question asked after a fatal bike incident seems to be “was the cyclist wearing a helmet?”. It should be obvious at this point that the helmet issue has become a big red herring.

  • DJB

    I would never dream of suggesting that helmets are the only relevant factor in safety for cyclists. Obviously street design and enforcing laws against reckless and distracted driving (and cycling) are important as well.

    Notice, I’m the only person here who decided to put out an unorthodox view and argue that Obama should wear a helmet and set a good example. Obviously this is a touchy subject for some.

    Calling my opinions “ignorant” without any effort to back up that contention with facts, or even arguments against what I’m saying, doesn’t strike me as a rhetorical strategy that’s likely to be persuasive.

    Helmets are one strategy that can improve the safety of biking (most people here agree with that). Although I’ve been focusing on deaths, I obviously also care about reducing injuries, particularly head injuries. There is a culture that discourages helmet use by labeling it uncool (anybody who grew up in America should know that). I’m not necessarily talking about people here, I’m talking more about the wider society. I think this issue should be confronted. We can disagree about making helmets mandatory, but hey, we don’t have to agree on everything.

  • DJB

    I’ll close by citing someone who knows more about biking than me:

    “Never leave home without it:

    Helmet [-] According to 2001 study in American Family Physician, bicycling injuries result in approximately 580,000 trips to the emergency room and 1.2 million doctor visits each year; head injuries account [of] these 47% of injuries, as well as 60% of deaths and most long-term disabilities. But wearing a helmet every time you ride can reduce your risk of head injury by as much 85%. And on a personal note, I took a bad spill a couple years ago that put me in the hospital for a couple nights with a concussion; if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be writing this today.”

    Helmets don’t have to discourage cycling. If you can afford a bike, you can afford a helmet. People don’t wear them because they don’t want to. I think we should try and understand why that is.

  • @josef/ubrayj – LOL!

    I think commenter angle is right – the problem is the prevalence of and the priority give to the car – not the helmet. In Eurpean countries where bikes are respected and accomodated (and where laws shift collision responsibility to the car driver) folks rarely wear helmets.

    I chose to wear a helmet, and I am fine with President Obama’s choice not to wear one this time around. I’d rather be debating Obama’s militarism in Afganistan and Iraq, though… or perhaps his administration’s lack of support for the rule of law in Honduras… or even his domestic transportation policy!

  • If a helmet was that important they would require them to be sold when you purchase a bike. Seatbelts are required for any car made in the US. In California you can’t even buy a car off the lot without having proof of insurance and a valid driving license. The helmet law has nothing to do with the safety of cyclist. It’s the gov’t way of saying “Of course I know that we don’t have safe bike lanes, just some line painted in the gutter and of course we make it as unpleasant as possible to be on the streets in urban cities, but we did require you to wear a helmet, so we care a little.”

    It’s just a way to blame the individual if a car hits them.

    “Well if she had been wearing a helmet then that 70 mph car smacking into her would have just maimed her severely instead of killing her…”


  • John

    I’m just glad that the president is riding a bike that fits him!

    Helmet hysteria is an example of how, in the US, we believe in passive safety but not active.

    Instead of obsessing about an item that may help you in a very small percentage of accidents, why don’t we concern ourselves with helping people not get hit in the first place?

    I wear a helmet, but I believe that defensive cycling, educated drivers who are aware of cyclists, subtle but smart changes to existing infrastructure, and more bikes on the road are far more important to my safety.

  • DJB

    Helmet hysteria? Really?

    I believe in doing a number of things to make cycling safer. Setting aside space in streets and changing the culture of driving and law enforcement are long term projects. Wearing a helmet is ONE thing a cyclist can do in the short term to make cycling safer.

    Yes, it sucks that cars put cyclists at such risk, but you know what, there’s nothing you can do about that in the short run. What you can do is take a reasonable safety precaution like wearing a helmet and advocate for long term changes in street design and law enforcement.

    And Browne, helmets are not a way of blaming cyclists for being hit. Helmets are a way of acknowledging that some collisions are going to happen no matter what we do, and when they do happen, it’s a good idea for there to be something padded between the pavement and your skull.

    Cyclists need to take some personal responsibility for their safety (which isn’t to minimize the fact that sometimes cyclists really are victimized by cars in ways a helmet can’t prevent, which, by the way, I have never denied), and I’m glad to hear that most people here are doing that.

    Your parents were right, wear a damn helmet, at least until you get to your carless utopia.