In Mexico City, you can find a caped superhero confronting cars face to face. He goes by the name of Peatonito – a play on the Spanish word for pedestrian.
In a country that registers 4 million traffic collisions each year, this is no small feat.
At the Vision Zero Cities Conference in New York City last month organized by Transportation Alternatives, we had the pleasure of meeting the superhero himself, who like Zendrive, is on a mission to making streets safer for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and cities.
15 years ago, Jorge Canez, a young political scientist, began investigating transportation policies in his hometown of Mexico City. At that time, Canez was a student who found getting around “the most hazardous thing imaginable.”
Keen on taking his activism one superhero step forward, in 2012, Canez officially donned the mask, and became Peatonito.
Today, Peatonito roams the streets twice a week, taking action towards safety in quirky ways like spray-painting DIY crosswalks for pedestrians and stepping down cars.
He thinks the main issue is that drivers are not taking responsibility for their actions. “There are children, grandmothers, dogs walking in the streets. As a driver you have to understand that what you are driving is not just a car but a potential weapon!”
Not only is the public thankful for his protection, Peatonito is also admired by partners such as city and non profit coalitions who advocate for passenger, bicyclist and pedestrian safety.
Peatonito might just be the most beloved figure in the world of street safety.
In addition, Peatonito recommends drivers and fleets work with companies like Zendrive, who provide driver performance tracking and coaching using insights from big data.
“Data is the basis for measuring progress,” says Peatonito. “But if you look at city data alone, you won’t get the whole picture.”
Vision Zero is the international movement to set time-bound goals to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries. In 2014, New York City set a goal of 2024 to do this. Later in 2014, San Francisco also set a goal of 2024, and Los Angeles set a goal of 2025. More and more U.S. cities are joining this lifesaving movement.
Peatonito believes that not only will Vision Zero be achieved, but drivers will have changed their behavior in cities and beyond.
His biggest wish that he hopes to come true in the near future are to have less cars on the street and, if drivers have to drive, that they drive much slower.
“People today drive everywhere, but they can move in more sustainable ways. And even when they’re driving, people need to drive slower. Slower driving = less fatalities.”
And cities are listening. In August 2015, Mexico City’s government presented a new set of road traffic regulations reducing speed limits on major roads from 70km/h to 50km/h. Other Vision Zero cities like London are taking similar steps. In March 2015, the speed limit on some of London’s busiest main roads was drastically reduced to 20 miles per hour.
Peatonito believes that radical changes like these will instigate real results. In Mexico City, more than 52 accidents in every 1,000 are fatal, and these policies will save many, many lives.
To fuel the future of progress, Peatonito recommends targeting mobile minded Millennials and future drivers.
“Millennials are malleable and open to adopting new rules. They can be the leaders that influence their parents, grandparents and future generations to take action. To find a way to share the streets in a peaceful way, we can start by enforcing strict rules, but ultimately we need to start training the future of transportation through future drivers.”