Citi Bike vs MMA: apples to oranges

In today’s Daily News, health expert and amateur fighter Jeff Halevy argues that mixed martial arts (MMA) should be legal in New York. To make his case, he contrasts the number of deaths in MMA to those from urban cycling.

In a response to Ben Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas, Mr. Halevy claimed to have “sparked an important discussion“. On a topic different from what he intended, it seems.

Look: very few people care about MMA and whether it’s legal. Had Mr. Halevy written an article comparing the sport to boxing (in fact, he urges us to Google it ourselves), it would have disappeared into the blogosphere with nary a whimper.

By throwing in the Citi Bike meat, Mr. Halevy ensured more publicity. It’s a great tactical move. But going for higher readership numbers often requires sacrificing quality. This piece is no exception.

A key mistake is suggesting bikeshare’s function is to get the populace in better shape:

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. [emphasis mine]

The program is intended as an alternative to other forms of transportation. As of June 30, Citi Bike members had covered over 1.5 million miles. How far have people traveled on MMA?

Also, no cyclist has killed a pedestrian in New York since 2009, so the fear of turning commuters and visitors into bright blue death machines is unfounded.

Now let’s use some statistics to cast this faulty comparison in sharper light.

In the 24-hour period ending at 5 pm on June 30, Citi Bike users took 28,554 trips lasting an average of 18 minutes, 32 seconds. That comes out to 8,820 hours.

The average MMA match lasts around 10 minutes. To meet Citi Bike’s single-day total, there would have to be over 50,000 cage matches. Considering Brian Stann contested only 18 professional fights before retiring, it would take a long time for the MMA community to come close to what Citi Bike accomplished in twenty-four hours.

Let’s take it one step further. In the first month of operation, Citi Bike saw three injuries in 529,000 trips. Assuming the same average trip duration, that comes out to nearly one million fights. Good luck keeping that to three injuries.

When Mr. Stann retired at age 33, he claimed “there’s only so long that I can roll those dice and be successful.” I doubt you’ll hear any cyclists saying those words, especially as the city becomes more bike-friendly.

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