In Mexico City, an unofficial public service exists to protect the city’s pedestrians. His name is Peatónito, which translates as “Pedestrian Man”, and he wears all black and what looks like a Halloween superhero mask – but is, we’ve been assured since originally publishing this story, a Mexican wrestling mask – as he goes about his good deeds.
According to a recent Guardian profile, Peatónito lurks on the city’s busy intersections – some of which are crossed by up to 9,000 people an hour – to protect pedestrians’ right of way. As the Guardian journalist watched, he noticed a grey Peugeot stopped on the crossing and pushed it back to create space for people to cross.
Peatónito is actually Jorge Cáñez, a political scientist who dons his mask and has taken to the city’s stsreets to solve crimes against pedestrians since 2012. The character even has his own Facebook page, where he is (faintly mysteriously) described as a “sportsperson”.
His superhero mask features a green figure walking across a zebra crossing. Beyond car pushing, other activities involve creating new zebra crossings with the help of white spray paint.
These direct actions are a response to the dangers for pedestrians on Mexico City’s streets, which (perhaps unsurprisingly, given its size) boasts the highest number of traffic accidents of any city in Mexico.
So how do the city’s millions of drivers react to Peatónito’s interventions? According to the Guardian profile, the Peugeot driver responds positively:
“My name is Peatónito, and I fight for the rights of pedestrians,” he says, introducing himself. The driver smiles and reverses willingly and eventually the pair shake hands. With the pedestrian crossing again flowing as it should, Peatónito heads back to the pavement where he will wait until he is needed again. The traffic light turns green.
Mexico City recently introduced new, lower speed limits on major routes to help make the streets less dangerous for pedestrians. It’s not clear whether Peatónito influenced their decision, but we suspect he may have had something to do with it.This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.