The Tomato

Free-running and texting incidents becoming more frequent and dangerous

Photo by Tina Wallace

IMAGINE YOU’RE WALKING down the sidewalk heading to your local drinking hole. The night is young, the air is crisp on your skin, and walking beside you is the love of your life.

She stares into your eyes and opens her mouth as if she is about to tell you something profound, when suddenly something catches her eye. She looks to her side, her expression darkens and words halt in her throat. As you follow her gaze you’re met with a terrifying sight: an oncoming pedestrian, whose face is lit with the ghostly light of a cell phone, parkouring straight for you.

You have no time to react as the unknown man barrels into you and your love. She’s thrown wide, safe onto the grass beside the sidewalk, but you are not so lucky, catching an elbow in the stomach and having your toes stepped on. You fall to the ground and your head strikes the concrete. You remain conscious just long enough to hear screaming and the assailant looks back, indifferent to what he has done, running up a wall and back flipping into the night.

This real life situation is just one of the hundreds of texting while parkouring cases that have begun to spread across Ottawa. Within the past few years, free-running and texting, otherwise known as frexting, has invaded the country from Victoria, B.C. to Halifax, N.S. Incidents have ranged from slight annoyance and social tardiness to broken bones, and experts say that fatalities are not far off.

As of yet no arrests have been made. However, Sergeant Cam Pering of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) said at a recent press conference that authorities will soon have no choice but to intervene.

“These are in essence minor traffic accidents, but as they involve texting and collisions, consequences will have to be more severe. Those held accountable will be brought to justice,” said Pering.

Currently, the fine for frexting is set at $2,000, but future consequences will include six demerit points, a 50 per cent increase in insurance rates, and even possible jail time.

Arrests have proven to be difficult, since all suspects have fled each crime scene in various ways involving death-defying movements—all of which go beyond OPS training. As a result, less effective measures have been taken to ensure pedestrian safety.

Presently, the OPS has released a public service announcement on the subject of frexting that will circulate across Ottawa throughout the fall. The advertisement promotes the use of Bluetooth technology while parkouring. It is hoped that this method—entitled hands-free running—will reduce the number of parkouring-related collisions and make the sidewalks safe again.