Would you rather take your chances participating in a city-backed transportation program, or in an illegal cage fight?
Participate in an activity that was responsible for nearly 700 American deaths in 2011 alone, or an activity that has been responsible for eight or nine fatalities in the past 20 years?
The former options, and latter options, on both of these questions are one in the same: Nearly 700 Americans were killed in bicycle accidents in 2011 alone, and, at most, nine fighters have died from Mixed Martial Arts since 1993 (only three of which have resulted from legitimate, sanctioned bouts).
Yet New York City policy has fostered the birth of a bicycle-sharing program, while keeping MMA illegal.
Scratching your head? So am I.
[Read: 7 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise.]
I am the first one to not only encourage increased activity and exercise in our increasingly sedentary and obese population, but to actually put his money and time where his mouth is, with self-funded national childhood obesity campaigns. However, I don't believe arming under-skilled commuters and visitors with tools that could not only cause them to kill and injure themselves, but could cause them to kill and injure others, is the solution to increasing activity levels.
I am also someone who has fought as an amateur fighter and is passionate about the pugilistic sports. I will spare you the alarming point-by-point comparison of the often incredibly dangerous sport of boxing compared to MMA, however a quick Google search will reveal the sobering statistics -- and it should leave you questioning why boxing is legal in NYC and MMA remains banned.
And, even more so, whether at the hands of "illegal" MMA or boxing, how many general population lives are at risk due to the development of a fighter's tools?
But back to my beloved city. MMA is illegal in New York City, a position that costs my hometown at least $1.4 million per year (assuming only one single MMA event).
Cycling is completely legal, and in just a three-month period, generates as many as 800 injuries. It wouldn't be a long shot to conclude that the associated medical costs easily trump the MMA revenue figure above.
So why would the City support a statistically dangerous and costly activity, while continuing to ban a relatively safe, revenue-generating sport?
While I can only speculate, it evokes the Bush-era Axis of Evil gross oversimplification of good and bad. I can almost hear South Park's Mr. Mackey: "Fighting's bad, m'kay, and biking is good, m'kay kids?"
Is it all so simple that we can just ignore the hard numbers behind these two activities and two data sets?
Forget New York; this is where I believe we tap in even deeper, into the American ethos, where all too often people, ideas and things are, via emotional oversimplification, and without the mental labor of exploring hard data, just cast into the categorizes of "good" and "bad."
Cycling is a healthy activity that reduces our negative on the environment. MMA is a dangerous activity that is fundamentally wrong and harmful to our society. Right? However, if we throw on our emotional blinders and stay focused on the data sets alone, is it really possible to maintain these opinions?
As someone who values science, statistics and data, and who has been hit by cars while biking, by bikes while walking and by punches in the ring, I can tell you that I would rather take my chances with the latter any day. Unfortunately those in New York City walking, biking and commuting to work don't have this choice. They'll simply have to trust that Citi Bike and City government has their best interests at heart, m'kay?
Jeff Halevy is an internationally recognized expert in behavioral health, nutrition and exercise science. His clients range from Hollywood and Wall Street "royalty" to true international royalty. After surviving the removal of a pear-sized tumor and a substance abuse problem, Jeff turned his life around, founding New York City private gym Halevy Life and starring in healthy lifestyle TV show "Workout From Within with Jeff Halevy," which airs nationally on Veria Living.