Is Rooftop Parkour Illegal?
Man doing rooftop parkour

An average city-dwelling thrill-seeking enthusiast has most definitely heard about parkour. While the discipline is very appealing, many may wonder whether the whole process of running longer distances through urban areas and using urban landscapes as obstacles can get you in any trouble with the law. 

If you don’t care about the legal aspect, well, you should start thinking of it as well.

Rooftop parkour is a great test of one’s skills. And while parkour itself isn’t illegal, there are some precautions that you should think of before you start jumping and running over rooftops. To make sure you don’t get in trouble, consult with authorities and property owners before indulging in rooftop parkour activities.

Safety Is Above Everything in Parkour

Before we get any deeper into this whole deal of what’s legal or not legal, there’s one more important issue that we need to discuss first. While parkour is most definitely one of the most thrilling activities an adrenaline-seeking individual can do, you should know that safety is above everything. 

Yeah, we might sound like someone’s mother or a boring aunt, but make sure that you are skilled and experienced enough before actually practicing any longer runs, especially if rooftops are involved. Anyone can learn parkour, but it is important to learn how to do it properly and safely.

No matter your background or skill set, you should always follow a known exercise regimen. This not only includes exercises that focus on your stability and concentration but also proper stretching and even a healthy way of life. After all, you don’t want to accidentally slip and fall to a hard surface from a random 10-feet-tall or a higher obstacle and suffer a serious injury. 

With this said, you should also think of any legal aspects of it and whether you’re trespassing onto anyone’s property. Remember: getting in trouble with the authorities can be a serious issue in the long run

What Is Parkour?

In more simple terms, parkour is a sport, or a discipline, that involves getting as fast as possible from point A to point B in a more or less complex environment without any assisting tools, most commonly in urban areas. Those who practice parkour are often referred to as tracers. And in order to achieve the best results, they use different movements in addition to running, such as jumping, climbing, crawling, vaulting, and others. 

In some way, you can regard parkour as its own form of obstacle course racing. Being developed from standard military obstacle courses, it’s often regarded as a non-combative martial art. 

Another discipline that stemmed from parkour is freerunning. Although absolute beginners to these activities may often think that it’s the same thing, freerunning doesn’t involve getting from point A to point B in the shortest time possible, but rather just a display of movements that a body can do when met with different physical obstacles. Although freerunners often practice parkour as well, it’s more of an expressive art form (dare we say a form of urban dance?) than a sport. 

Parkour Is Actually Older Than You Might Think

The roots of parkour take us all the way back to the early 20th century with Georges Hébert’s “natural method” of exercise (or “méthode naturelle” in French) that was a combination of running, walking, self-defense methods, as well as other basic movements that you’d need for finishing obstacle courses. 

Fast forward to the mid-20th century, these concepts were further developed by Raymond Belle, and eventually his son David Belle, who is considered to be the true originator of Parkour. The discipline was further developed in the early 20th century, ultimately becoming really popular in Europe and North America. 

Where Can You Practice Parkour?

When it comes to a discipline like parkour, your imagination and skill set are the only limits. And although it’s a completely different type of activity, the same could be said about freerunning. 

However, over the years, those who practice parkour have found some “standard” places where the activity can be done. This included urban locations like college campuses, playgrounds, parks, skate parks, outdoor gyms, or any urban landscape that has potential obstacles. For instance, old apartment blocks, like those in Eastern Europe, can be a great place to start. 

In more recent years, experienced tracers have also started their own gyms, which mostly specialize in parkour. Although more expensive, it’s the safest and most reliable method if you want to get good at parkour. 

But just like with any sport, things get more and more extreme over time. In the case of parkour, this meant that tracers did their best to find more thrill-seeking adventures in some unexpected locations. 

Is Parkour Legal?

The locations that we’ve mentioned are all a great place to start. However, troubles start with either private properties or some specific public locations. If a tracer, purposefully or accidentally, enters any private property without permission and consent from the owner, they’re already breaking the law. The same could be said if they’re practicing parkour at a public spot and are causing trouble to the traffic or are causing a safety hazard. 

For instance, there was an incident in Charleston, South Carolina back in 2012 when two men were practicing parkour on a bridge, ultimately causing trouble and thus stopping traffic for a couple of hours. They were rescued by firefighters and were eventually charged with disorderly conduct. If they potentially caused a traffic accident, with people getting seriously injured (or worse), the crime would have been much more severe. 

If you do find yourself caught on private property or a public spot, with the authorities being called in, we’d advise that you stay put and deal with the issue without running away. In fact, you can only cause more problems, both to yourself and others, if you try to leave the scene. 

However, if a particular parkour event is organized in coordination with the authorities, then things can go smoothly. The same could be said about other activities, such as buildering, which is a form of urban climbing. The most famous builderer is Alain Robert, who got arrested multiple times for climbing tall buildings without the authorities’ approval and without any safety equipment. 

Is Rooftop Parkour Illegal?

The same rules apply to rooftop parkour, which includes jumping from a roof of one building, or a house, to another. While parkour itself is not an illegal activity, the very nature of rooftop parkour is too risky and can cause serious harm not only to tracers who are doing it but also to property owners and bystanders. 

If a tracer or a group of tracers wants to do rooftop parkour, they should get in touch with the authorities and property owners and see whether it’s possible to pull things off legally. The easiest way would probably be to get in touch with a private owner of a complex, or an abandoned complex (ie. an industrial zone) and set things up. Otherwise, the activity is considered to be illegal. 

For instance, a particular tracer, who was a minor at the time, got stranded on a restaurant roof in Vienna, Austria back in 2011. He was held by the authorities and was later released to his mother’s custody. The fact that he was a minor at the time was a mitigating circumstance, but he’d get in much more trouble if he were an adult. 

Man jumping off roofs

What About Rooftop Parkour, Can It Be Considered an Illegal Activity?

Parkour is not an illegal discipline. However, its principles include practice on public or private properties, which are sometimes done without consent, thus making the activity illegal. Here are some of the actions that can potentially get you in trouble if you plan on doing rooftop parkour:

  • Trespassing (entering a building or an area where you’re not allowed to enter)
  • Causing damage, on purpose or by accident
  • Causing direct or indirect harm to bystanders and/or property owners
  • Causing excessive noise and thus disturbing public peace
  • Breaking and entering (lockpicking or breaking doors to get to a rooftop)
  • Crime scene getaway (if you run away from the authorities)

With this said, it’s obvious that rooftop parkour is a bit tricky from a legal point of view. Sure, you might have watched numerous YouTube videos of tracers jumping from one rooftop to another. 

However, if you want to do it all “by the book,” there’s got to be an agreement with the authorities and private owners, as well as safety precautions. Otherwise, you’re technically breaking the law. 

It’s Highly Advisable That You Consult a Professional

At this point, parkour is basically like any other sport. As we’ve mentioned above, there are even gyms that focus on parkour, with plenty of instructors offering lessons and training regimens. Not to mention that they can help you with all the necessary safety measures, ultimately helping you avoid any unwanted injuries. 

But aside from the parkour itself and all the techniques, instructors can also share their experiences regarding its practical use in urban settings.

Rooftop parkour is a pretty risky activity, even aside from the fact that you can potentially get in trouble with the authorities. But if you’re playing it safe, learning all the important basics, and are interested in the legal aspect, you should bear in mind that any activity done on private property without the consent of the owner, is technically illegal. And this also goes for some public spaces if your activity is either endangering people around you or causing trouble to people’s everyday activities.

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