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Parkour, a word derived from the French parcours, which means “route”, is a discipline rapidly growing in popularity across cities worldwide. Thrill-seekers everywhere are being inspired by videos on YouTube, and they’re being drawn in their thousands to the buzz of jumping over walls and vaulting catlike through cityscapes. Since the movement’s inception in the 1980’s, parkour has well and truly taken off; in fact, in 2017, the UK became the first country in the world to officially recognise free-running as a sport, with then British Sports Minister Tracey Crouch describing it as “a fun, creative and innovative option”. But should this all really be encouraged? In May 2019, Tracey Crouch was appointed senior independent director of Parkour UK.
Advocates of parkour argue that it can be liberating. The idea is that anything is negotiable when you free-run: stairs, railings, fences, gaps between roofs. The interplay with the environment becomes an art – the rolls, the dashes, the elegant wall leaps. This sense of overcoming obstacles with a free, kinetic energy, they maintain, encourages self- improvement on all levels. Critics disagree. Some harbour concerns that, while it’s great to see young people enthusiastic about sport, scaling tall structures is dangerous, as is jumping over obstacles without safety equipment.
However, despite common perceptions of danger, there have actually been few publicised accidents and deaths attached to the sport. As such, there is currently no direct law that prevents free-runners from using public spaces, but councils can still be found liable for an accident in certain circumstances, as detailed in our free-running guidance. Indeed, there is little doubt that hitting the rooftop running comes with its risks. But the argument of parkour, for now, just like the runners who undertake these impressive physical feats, is finely poised.
Published Date 26th May 2020
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