Laura Bliss is CityLab’s west coast bureau chief, covering transportation and technology. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
Peatónito, the crosswalk superhero, puts drivers in their place.
Peatónito, Mexico City’s caped defender of pedestrian rights, exists to put cars in their place—literally. When villainous drivers rudely nose their cars into crosswalks, the man in the black and white stripes and luchador headgear will shove them back where they belong. With arms outstretched like the world’s most confident traffic conductor, he’ll wait for all pedestrians to cross safely. And when drivers aren’t paying attention, Peatónito jumps up on their hoods and walks right over them. Now that’s the kind of hero cities need.
Who is that masked man? As Sarah Goodyear wrote in 2013, Peatónito (“little pedestrian”) is the alter ego of Jorge Cáñez, a Mexico City-based political scientist who protects pedestrian rights in all kinds of quirky ways (spray-painting DIY crosswalks, for example). With some of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the world, Mexico City can certainly use his bravery.
But New York City is getting a little dose this week, with Peatónito in town for the Transportation Alternatives Vision Zero for Cities Conference. Streetfilms was on the ground to capture him in action on Monday. In this short video, the filmmakers write:
Peatónito meets with advocates near Brooklyn's horribly dangerous concrete expanse surrounding the Barclay's Center and Jay Street's constantly blocked bike lane near MetroTech. From there he talk[s] with community members in Jackson Heights, Queens while assisting children crossing a few of the extremely congested streets surrounding the many schools there.
One of the best parts of the video is how Peatónito gets other pedestrians to join him in physically taking back space in the streets. That kind of response is what’s kept the act going. As he says in the video, “It started a joke, but it became a great way to do civic culture in the streets.”