Parkour athletes turn off the lights of Paris one by one

Hadj Benhalima assessed the building in front of him, then ran towards the wall, kicked it with one foot, twisted in the air and reached out to flip a switch a few feet off the ground.

A snap and a brief second later, the dazzling exterior sign of the currency exchange office went out, one of many illuminations before which the nervous 21-year-old and his fellow parkour athletes went dark one night. last week in an attempt to combat energy waste.

“There are a lot of storefronts lit up at night and for no good reason. So given that I can turn them off, I try to do that as much as possible,” Benhalima said between jumps.

Young athletes whose sport of parkour involves running, swinging, and jumping through urban spaces refer to their nocturnal escapades as “Lights Off.”

They use circuit breakers regularly placed outside buildings in France to allow emergency services to cut off the power in the event of a fire.

They say their actions are helping to enforce Paris City Hall orders that stores turn off all signs and windows in the middle of the night. Police patrols offer little resistance.

Capturing the public’s imagination

Passing through the chic neighborhoods near the Opéra Garnier and the Champs-Élysées, Benhalima and his friends swoop down on barbers, cafes and local shops. Boutiques owned by Rolex, Tiffany & Co and Swatch are not subject to any deference.

Kevin Ha of parkour team On the Spot answers questions from a night when they turned off the lights in dozens of storefronts to raise awareness about saving energy and reducing light pollution in Paris. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

“We set ourselves small challenges, such as the first 360-degree wall runs and the high wall runs. The important thing is performance and respect for our sporting DNA”, explains Kevin Ha, a 30-year-old engineer. and passionate about parkour.

Parisian collective On the Spot is just one of many parkour groups that have been taking action against light pollution and energy waste in cities across France for the past two years.

Their actions have captured the public’s imagination at a time when the government is urging households and businesses to cut electricity consumption ahead of a winter energy crisis across Europe.

“It’s beautiful to see,” said digital creator Umud Tekinalt. “People congratulate us. Some even try to imitate us.”