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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 25 October, 2014

How to stop jaywalking? Hire mimes…

One mayor used mimes, superhero capes and relentless positivity to try and change circumstances in Bogotá, Columbia. We take a look at what happened next…

A still from a tribute to Mayor Mockus
A still from a tribute to Mayor Mockus
Image: liquidandrew56 via Youtube.com

JAYWALKERS ARE THE bane of many a motorist’s life.

So when they got too much for one Columbian city’s mayor, he did the only thing he could think of – hire mimes to impersonate them, and other traffic rule-breakers.

The slightly off-the-wall move was an inspired one, and proved that Bogotá’s Antanas Mockus was not your average mayor.

Though he had no political experience, the unorthodox Mockus (a mathematician and philosopher) decided to run for mayor of the city in 1995.  At the time, Bogotá was, as the Harvard Gazette put it, “choked with violence, lawless traffic, corruption, and gangs of street children”.

Change

But Mockus wanted to do his best to change the city.  During his two terms as mayor, he showed that doing something totally unexpected can in turn have unexpected results.

One of his extraordinary moves was to introduce more than 400 mimes to mock those who violated traffic rules – because he believed the fear of being mocked was greater for people than the fear of getting a fine. The move worked: traffic fatalities dropped by more than 50 per cent.

That wasn’t the only change he made – the homicide rate fell by 70 per cent; all homes were supplied with drinking water;  tens of thousands of people even paid a voluntary tax simply because he asked them.

Unorthodox

Mockus certainly didn’t take the usual approach to dealing with confrontation. He even mooned students when they got rowdy during a speech – which led to him resigning from his position at the National University of Colombia.

Then there were the super-hero capes that he donned while calling himself ‘Supercitizen’…

When Mockus heard that women were too afraid to go out at night, he held three different Nights for Women, where men were asked to stay home while women went out and enjoyed themselves, looked after by female police officers.

The film Cities on Speed gives a look at the changes that took place under Mockus and his equally inspiring predecessor Enrique Peñalosa (please note the opening of this documentary shows some scenes of violence that some may find distressing).

His mime experiment even went on to inspire other countries to follow suit:



(TYT Network/Youtube)

Mockus announced in 2010 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – but said he had more than a decade of normal life ahead of him due to medication.

Here is a look behind the scenes of his unsuccessful 2010 Green Party presidential bid:



(lasillavaciavideos/Youtube)

What unusual initiatives could we introduce here in Ireland?

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