Saturday, April 20, 2013

A New Way to Raise Awareness for Pedestrian Safety

Find yourself a superhero:

A 26 year old political scientist in Mexico City has created the persona Peatónito as a defender of pedestrian right of way and safety. The city is particularly dangerous for pedestrians as there are an average of 9.4 fatalities from traffic accidents for every 100,000 people and 861 pedestrians killed in car accidents in 2006. This is compared with London (1.9), New York (2.2), and Bogota (4.1) according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the world. 

With the failure to develop Mexico City (and many other cities worldwide) for people rather than for automobiles, the city has delivered a hostile environment for its pedestrians. Peatónito has started a public participation campaign for outreach and education through public demonstrations and direct communication. Along the lines of the aspirations of the Critical Mass movement for bicyclists, Peatónito uses cultural iconography and humor to raise the visibility of pedestrian rights and safety issues. This is particularly interesting as the mode share for Mexico city is less than 20% for automobiles (Atlantic Cities). For such a strong pedestrian share, the voice on the streets has been predominantly the automobile. Peatónito is one way to combat this. 


  1. Looking into this myself I found that his actions towards promoting pedestrian rights and safety include: painting crosswalks and pedestrian paths where none exist, removing obstacles from sidewalks, working with street vendors to allow pedestrians and wheelchair users enough room, and assisting people as they cross the street.

    He even has a twitter ( and facebook page (


  2. This post reminds me of some advocacy work on traffic problems in India, which has been leading the world in pedestrian and highway fatalities. In the past decade, urban India has been enamored by post World War II America - growing suburbs, two-car households and the decline of mass transit, all of which is adding to the congestion and traffic problems in the cities. It is becoming increasingly hard to be a pedestrian due to lack of sidewalks, crosswalks or any infrastructure or enforcement that is directed towards pedestrian safety. Moreover, the rise in drunk driving, road rage and other rash driving behavior makes it nearly impossible to feel safe even on sidewalks.

    On a side note: I remember, my 9-mile commute to work in New Delhi would almost always take 2 hours each way! My commute also included looking for an opportune moment to dash across a 5-lane road (because there was no pedestrian crossing and vehicles don't stop for pedestrians anyway) to reach my office.

    Anyway, back to innovative solutions! Government inefficacy has led to several non-profit organizations to take to advocacy to raise awareness, especially among drivers. One such initiative by ArriveSAFE is targeting the myriad festivals India celebrates. An example includes Raksha Bandhan (a festival celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters), where the campaign enlisted sisters to urge their brothers to drive safely / participate in safe driving programs in exchange for the 'Rakhi' the sister ties.

    While I don't have statistics on whether this campaign worked, I do believe that this non-profit has it right - reaching out to a culturally sensitive population where it has the most effect. More so, in developing countries, innovative approaches like this and the Superhero may be a crucial catalyst for the governments to take better control of traffic safety.

    1. Also check on this article on NYT that expands on this:


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