Continuing to fight for pedestrians in Mexico City is “The Little Pedestrian”:
The mighty Peatonito (Little Pedestrian) pushes cars blocking the path of pedestrians, creates crosswalks with spray paint, and climbs on vehicles parked on sidewalks — though his mother has begged him to stop stepping on them.
“Pedestrians are happy because they finally have a defender,” Peatonito said, his face covered by a wrestling mask adorned with a pedestrian symbol and wearing a striped cape (sewn by his grandma) adorned with the black and white stripes of a pedestrian crossing.
“We live in a car dictatorship. Nobody had fought for pedestrian rights until some activists emerged a few years ago.”
Meanwhile, below the city streets five clowns are on a similar mission to send up urban incivility, barging into a metro carriage making monkey noises and holding a sign saying “It’s better without pushing.”…
Peatonito aims to reduce traffic deaths in a city where pedestrians account for more than half of around 1,000 annual road fatalities, according to health ministry statistics.
This is a fascinating way to draw attention to the issue. It is one thing to publish statistics or to have more road signs (read about the campaign in Illinois to post the number of driving deaths for all to see) but another for a handful of people to act in public spaces. With the line of “we live in a car dictatorship,” I’m surprised others haven’t taken up similar routines in other cities around the world (including the United States which might be as much as a car dictatorship as one can have). But, two things might be problematic:
1. I wonder if police or local officials could actually arrest them for being a disturbance. In a real car dictatorship, you don’t want fake superheros running around in the way of cars. Might it take some complaints from drivers or others who feel that these crusaders have gone too far?
2. How does one translate these activities into a broader social movement or changes in policies and regulations? If the pedestrians of Mexico City wanted to take over the roads, they certainly could. At the least, this superhero might publicly shame the city but that doesn’t necessarily lead to large-scale change.
By the way, this isn’t the first time Peatonito has drawn international news coverage. See this story from 2013 that discusses what his actions led to:
Peatónito is the alter ego of Jorge Cáñez, a 26-year-old political scientist in Mexico City who has also worked with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)…
His efforts got him invited to speak at the Walk 21 conference in 2012 and has met with officials from Mexico City’s department of public security to discuss the importance of putting pedestrians first in street design and traffic enforcement. He is hopeful about government efforts to improve infrastructure. At least, he says, they are now talking about giving pedestrians priority — which would only make sense in a city where 80 percent of the population doesn’t drive…
“Once the government has adopted the ‘pedestrian is the king’ in their speeches, I’m going to monitor and help them till the day there’s no pedestrian fatalities nor accidents, and also decent sidewalks and safety crossings in the streets. But even if the government calls me to collaborate, I will always be a non-partisan citizen hero of the public domain.” He has registered Peatónito as Creative Commons, so that anyone who wants can become Peatónito.
Perhaps there really are superheros…