The behavioural economics of parkrun

By Prof Theodore Turocy 

Last week, Stoke Gifford Parish Council voted to institute a £1 per runner charge on the parkrun (http://www.parkrun.org.uk) event held at Little Stoke Park in Bristol, citing, among other factors, the maintenance costs imposed on the park by the 200 or more participants who run, jog, or walk 5km as part of the event each week. This item has been newsworthy, among other reasons, as national policy has an objective of encouraging health and fitness.  Some of these national initiatives are based on standard economic principles of subsidising to encourage certain types of activity, and taxing to discourage others.  For example, hosting the 2012 London Olympics was justified in part in the hope it would create a legacy of increased participation in sport, while the recent tax on drinks with a high sugar content is intended to help reduce excessive consumption of sugar, which can have serious long-term health consequences.  How, then, did we come to a situation where a local council is, in effect, proposing to tax an activity that policy at the national level would encourage?

parkrun

Runners at a parkrun event

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