On 12 November, German-Scottish landscape architecture practice UrbanPioneers Stadtpioniere hosted ‘Jump the Barrier’ to highlight how the UK’s streets are among Europe’s most cluttered

Parkour in action at Jump the Barrier
Parkour in action at Jump the Barrier

Across our towns and cities, ‘street furniture’ such as railings, road signs, advertising and traffic lights compete for the attention of pedestrians and motorists. The received wisdom is that the controlled behaviour resulting from this street clutter keeps pedestrians safe and traffic flowing.

According to groups such as English Heritage, however, there is little evidence to suggest that street clutter has much, if any, effect on safety in the long term. And the 1982 ‘broken windows’ theory of academics James Q Wilson and George L Kelling posited that a disorderly environment can lead otherwise law-abiding citizens to act equally disorderly.

Held at the junction of Princess Street and Lothian Road in Edinburgh, the Jump the Barrier event featured parkour practitioners Gordon Tsang, Spencer Selwood and Zak Corney balancing on, dragging, hanging on and jumping over street barriers.

UrbanPioneers co-founder and artist Marion Preez said that the aim of the event was to question the purpose of street barriers and encourage “creative interaction with the environment”.

“[The event] challenges our perception of restricted open space and the right to free and equal movement within this space,” she said. “Uncluttered and well-designed streets are more attractive and increase levels of use by pedestrians and cyclists without increasing accident rates.

“If overuse of barriers, signals, signs and road paint does not prevent accidents, but segregates spaces and decreases the various uses otherwise possible, and if disorder can trigger vandalism and petty criminal behaviour, why don’t we start decluttering our open spaces?”

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