Founded in 1897 to commemorate the death of Bridget Driscoll, a women killed by a vehicle in London the year before, International Pedestrian Day has sought to raise awareness of the needs of pedestrians and remember those who have been killed by vehicles.
The day has been observed in Mexico since 2004, and this year, it helped bring attention to an accident in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City when a police car rammed into an adolescent girl and her mother as they crossed Eje 2 Norte Manuel González close to Metro Tlatelolco.
The accident was captured on a dramatic video by a security camera, and has been circulating on social media as an ironic way to mark International Pedestrian Day. The two women did not sustain life-threatening injuries, and the police officer who struck them was cleared of responsibilities, but pedestrian advocates blame the accident, as well as many of the deaths and injuries to pedestrians in Mexico, on urban policies and a culture of mobility that are unfriendly to pedestrians.
Javier Hidalgo, director of environment and mobility for the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City, thinks that Mexico City is a city planned for cars, and that its urban design doesn’t respect the needs of pedestrians.
“This city has been designed putting the needs of of privately-owned automobiles above all else,” said Hidalgo in an interview with CAPITAL MEDIA. “I don’t think we should be celebrating. We have barely even started the task of conceiving a city that takes pedestrians into account.”
The civil organization México Previene, which researches and advocates policies to prevent traffic accidents, says that more than 2,000 deaths are caused each year in Mexico by what they call the lack of a culture of mobility.
Many articles about the Tlatelolco accident were quick to point out that the two women who were struck had not used a pedestrian bridge that crosses Eje 2 Sur near where they were crossing. However, many pedestrian advocates criticize the existence of pedestrian bridges, as they multiply the distance needed to cross streets and put drivers’ desire for free-flowing traffic above pedestrians’ need to cross streets safely and conveniently.
The Declaration of Pedestrian Rights, published by the Pedestrian League, characterizes pedestrian bridges and tunnels as “infrastructure built for cars,” and rejects their use on streets that are controlled by stoplights, only considering them appropriate on uncontrolled highways.
“On streets that are controlled by stoplights, the existence of pedestrian bridges is unacceptable,” reads the Declaration of Pedestrian Rights. “No pedestrian should be judged for refusing to use bridges and looking for options to cross streets at ground level.”