In New York there are really people who “subway surf”

What may seem like another “social media challenge” that actually doesn’t exist has claimed the lives of four young people this year alone

It is called one of the most popular smartphone games in recent years Subway skaters. It’s very simple: the player takes on the role of a street artist who evades the police by navigating the subway system of a major city, jumping over train cars and running through long tunnels. The character’s journey continues indefinitely, but is often interrupted by traumatic incidents in which he is hit by a subway car or arrested by a policeman.

The video game was produced by a Danish company and the second American magazine Curb Partly contributing to a trend among a small number of teenagers living in New York, who have begun “subway surfing” in much larger numbers than usual. It’s not one of those “social media challenges” we often read about online, but it actually doesn’t exist or is of interest to so few people that it’s not relevant: this year alone, four young people have died trying to travel by hanging from above . External appearance of metro cars.

“Subway surfing”, as it is already known in New York, is a practice that has been around since at least the 1980s, and consists of traveling on the subway not inside the cars, as is usual, but by holding on to the backs, sides or roofs of the cars. The most daring not only stand still, but also try to run and jump over moving vehicles. There is a point system to determine the degree of “heroism” of a surfer: those who move only in the subway sections above the surface earn fewer points than those who also remain clinging underground and moving between tunnels.

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This practice is clearly very dangerous: New York subway tunnels are known to be very narrow and have very little headroom, as well as being dotted with steel beams that are useful for structural reasons but randomly placed, making it easy to crash into them if you’re found on top of a carriage. To determine which lines to “surf” people resort to special maps drawn by other surfers who arrived before them, but the frequent construction in progress means you never know if the route will actually turn out as you expect.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the company responsible for public transportation in New York, recorded a notable peak in the number of surfers starting in 2021: in the first six months of 2023, more than 450 riders were counted, much more than in previous years, while In 2022 it was even 565 in the same period. These are mostly very young boys, between fourteen and eighteen years old, who have also started uploading videos and photos of their exploits on TikTok: Some said They are inspired by the video game Subway skaterswhich loosely mimics the experience.

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In April, the MTA issued a training memo for train crews reminding them to make sure there are no people riding outside of the train cars they are driving. Various signs have been placed at metro stations warning of the dangers of this practice, and loudspeakers often broadcast the message that “traveling or walking between train cars is illegal and extremely dangerous.” People caught subway surfing are rarely caught and usually receive few reprimands. As the number of participants in the practice has increased, so have the deaths: in 2023 there have been four so far, compared to two last year.

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Mayor Eric Adams has asked social networking companies to remove any videos of children riding train cars after some began circulating widely. TikTok did just that, as its guidelines prohibit “promoting criminal activities that could harm people, animals, or property.” The warning: “Participating in this activity may cause harm to you or others” has been added to some remaining videos.

Several New York teenagers were interviewed from Curb However, they say they continue to do it, despite their parents’ fears and the deaths of their friends, not because of online fame — which some achieve anyway — but because of the sense of freedom they feel in doing so, some point out, as some identify with the practice. It is an “art form”. One 14-year-old interviewed said: “I can stop doing it whenever I want, it’s not addictive.” “But running on top of a subway car makes you feel like you’re in a movie.”

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