He’s Gotham’s next superhero fighting a scourge of our city: traffic accidents.
Peatónito, the masked defender of pedestrian rights who hails from Mexico City, was in New York City last week for the Transportation Alternatives Vision Zero conference on the city’s campaign to improve traffic safety for pedestrians, Citylab reported.
But Peatónito, which could be interpreted as a portmanteau of the Spanish words peatón (pedestrian) and atónito (astonished), or a rough translation "little pedestrian" — is no government official. He is the alter ego of Jorge Cáñez, a political scientist who moonlights as a traffic safety vigilante in Mexico City, which is notorious for its high rates of pedestrian fatalities. Dressed up as a Mexican wrestler with his luchador mask, he physically escorts pedestrians across streets, spray-paints his own crosswalks, reprimands car drivers, and generally reclaims street space for pedestrians and cyclists.
In New York City, Peatónito, as captured in a short documentary by Streetfilm, has worked with local transit safety advocacy groups and stationed himself in particularly dangerous traffic areas around Atlantic Barclays Center, Jay Street near Metrotech, 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights and in other locations. In the video, he guides pedestrians along crosswalks, pushes intrusive cars back, and kicks cars out of bike lanes.
The effort started out as a “joke” for Cañez, who spontaneously decided to buy a mask and transform into Peatónito after watching a Mexican wrestling match with friends. But he's been at it for three years and said in the Streetfilm video that it has become “a great way to do civic culture in the streets.”
He ultimately wants to go beyond his one-man show and help people collectively transform the transportation system to prioritize pedestrian safety.
“I go out into the streets and invite people to fight for their rights and … join this pedestrian revolution and change our cities — because it’s possible,” Cáñez said in the film. “In the past years, New York has changed a lot. You have safer streets, but there is a long way to go.”