Peatónito—or Little Pedestrian—darts into intersections, clad in a cape and wearing a wrestling mask. There, Peatónito places himself in front of vehicles encroaching on crosswalks and pretends to physically push them back—superhero style. Most motorists, stunned by the sight, clear the crosswalks.
Peatónito is part of a pedestrian revolution in Mexico City, where sidewalks are often crumbling and littered with dog droppings, and motorists seldom slow down for pedestrians. He’s not the only one fighting for pedestrians. One Mexico City borough painted images inside crosswalks of pedestrians wearing crowns, in order to emphasize their importance. Groups have painted crosswalks at intersections, as well as pedestrian lanes on streets lacking sidewalks. Others have gone guerrilla, with one irritated individual sticking a camera in the face of a woman parking on the sidewalk outside a Guadalajara bank (the practice is common in Mexico), provoking her to leave the SUV and accuse her confronter of lacking “respect.” The video went viral.
Peatónito avoids such confrontation. “The power of Peatónito is communication,” says Jorge Cáñez, 26, who works in an urban planning consultancy and masquerades as the caped crusader. Cáñez says Peatónito is no superhero, but is rather a character from the Lucha Libre, Mexico’s campy professional wrestling circuit. He compares the road to the wrestling ring, where Peatónito is a good guy and takes on inconsiderate drivers—the “villains.”
Cáñez and another experts attribute the problems to ineffectual traffic police, while drivers never learn the rules of the road—not surprising, since Mexico City issues drivers’ licences without requiring any exams.
Pedestrian-protection efforts are still in the early stages, but Cáñez is hopeful others will imitate his actions. “All of us are Peatónito,” he says.