Posts Tagged: Antanas Mockus



Mimes As Traffic Cops in Caracas?

Traffic cops in Caracas, Venezuela. Seriously.

If Caracas can use ski lifts as public transit what are the chances they could do something even more bizarre to ease one’s daily commute?

Plenty apparently.

Carlos Ocariz, mayor of the Caracas municipality of Sucre, has deployed 120 mimes into Venezuela’s most congested city. The mimes are tasked with taming the city’s notorious traffic and silently shaming (and mocking) drivers and pedestrians into following traffic laws.

Admittedly, the concept is strange but it’s not without precedent. The program was inspired by Bogota, Colombia’s own mime-as-traffic-cop scheme and has since spread to other South American cities like Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Originally conceived and implemented in the mid-2000’s by Bogota’s trailblazing former mayor Antanas Mockus, the program was so popular and effective that the number of mimes-as-traffic-cops grew from an initial 20 to over 400.

According to the Harvard Gazette, Mockus called it “a pacificst counterweight . . . With neither words nor weapons, the mimes were doubly unarmed. My goal was to show the importance of cultural regulations.”

He goes on:

“The distribution of knowledge is the key contemporary task. Knowledge empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.”

Amen to that.

As we’ve discussed before (here and here, for example) people are creative, emotional and fun-loving creatures. It’s far easier to change people’s behaviour by playing to those aspects of their personalities rather than punishing them with burdensome policy, regulations and utterly ineffective public service campaigns.

Arguably, there are few things more frustrating in the realm of contemporary western policy, politics and planning than the complete humourlessness of the whole exercise. It’s as though our current planning regime has concluded that creativity and humor are incompatible with modern, professional urban life.

I categorically reject that model and opinion because it entirely misunderstands humanity.

Cities are built for humanity. A city, its infrastructure and its policy should therefore live to service the needs, wants and desires of humanity, not the other way around.

Just because your local planner, policy-maker or politician is without humour and creativity, doesn’t mean your entire urban existence needs to be as well.

Image via the Harvard Gazette.

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