PARIS — After taking a few steps back to get a running start, Hadj Benhalima dashed toward the building, pushed against its wall with his foot, propelled himself upward and stretched out his arm.
At the peak of his leap, he flipped off a light switch, more than 10 feet off the ground. A click sound rang out, and the bright lights of a nearby barbershop went off instantly.
“Oooh,” his friends cheered, as Mr. Benhalima, a thin 21-year-old dressed all in black, landed back on the sidewalk. It was the second store sign he had turned off on a recent nighttime tour across Paris’s upscale neighborhoods. Many more would follow as he soared up and dropped back down across the city.
Over the past two years, groups of young athletes practicing Parkour — a sport that consists of running, climbing and jumping over urban obstacles — have been swinging around big French cities switching off wasteful shop signs at night, in a bid to fight light pollution and save energy. Excerpt from
Videos of their feats, showing Spiderman-like aerialists clinging to stone facades and balcony edges before plunging streets into darkness with the flick of an elevated switch, have been popular on social media since the start of the trend.
But these so-called Lights Off operations have become extra resonant in recent months, with France embarking on energy conservation efforts to cope with Russia’s chokehold on Europe’s gas.
Paris, the City of Light, is a favorite target. While its landmark monuments now go dark earlier than usual, many store signs still stay lit all night.
“Everyone can contribute in their own way” to save energy, said Kevin Ha, the leader of the Paris-based On The Spot Parkour collective, with about 20 members. “We put our physical abilities to good use.”