Paris officials are hoping to curb public urination by encouraging slightly less-public urination.
The city government first tried to discourage people from peeing in the streets with the installation of public toilets, or “pissoirs”, on major boulevards in the 1830s. But people have continued to relieve themselves on streets — so site-seeing historic architecture can often come with visions of rogue pissers and wafts of stale micturition.
Now, about 180 years after the first Parisian public toilets, the city is trying out a new urination innovation — “uritrottoirs” (a portmanteau of the French word for “pavement” and “urinals”).
These contraptions, which look like red rubbish bins, have a bed of straw that mitigates the odour and walls that hide the user’s penis. They are also supposed to collect nutrients from the waste, which will go into compost for public gardens and parks.
The uritrottoirs are marked with a signpost that shows a cartoon figure leaning back as it pees into the box — curiously standing far enough away as to not take advantage of the concealment walls.
Four of the uritrottoirs have been installed in high-traffic areas. One is placed near the Notre Dame Cathedral, next to the Seine river. A fifth one is in the works, officials said.
“The interest of this new urban fixture lies in its mobility, ease of installation and use, as well as its ecological dimension,” local officials said in a statement, which refers to the uritrottoir as an “intelligent urinal”.
But many locals are pissed about the new additions and have written the city demanding it removes the uritrottoirs, reports Reuters. “There’s no need to put something so immodest and ugly in such an historic spot,” Paris resident Paola Pellizzar told the outlet.
“They have been installed on a sexist proposition: Men cannot control themselves (from the bladder point of view) and so all of society has to adapt,” Gwendoline Coipeault of the women’s rights group Femmes Solidaires told Reuters. “The public space must be transformed to cause them minimum discomfort.”
Paris official Ariel Weil, however, stood up for the urinals in a tweet, calling them “an invention of genius”.