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From healthcare to helmets – Obama agenda continues to split the US

Opinion divides as leader of the free world rides into a storm for not wearing a lid

Healthcare reform, the bailout of the banking and auto industries and foreign policy issues such as the Middle East and South Korea. You’d think that President Obama would be able to enjoy a few days’ holiday with his family at the well-heeled island resort of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts without igniting another controversy that divides public opinion in the United States.

Oops. The publication of photos of the world’s most powerful man taking a leisurely bike ride with the first family, presumably followed by a peloton of secret service agents, has sparked debate across the US media because – are you ready for this? – the president wasn’t wearing a helmet.

A poll on the respected political blog, The Huffington Post, shows that the nation is as polarised on this issue as any other, with 50.5% claiming that as a grown man, Obama is free to do as he chooses, while 49.5% say that he needs to take care of himself.

Obama’s non-helmet wearing represents another departure from the policies of his predecessor, George W Bush, often pictured sporting a lid while riding at his Crawford, Texas ranch with Lance Armstrong, although an article published in the New York Times before the 2004 presidential election suggests that the former president’s bike handling skills – or lack of them – may well have influenced his decision to join the pro-helmet camp.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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