Paris rolls out controversial solution to public urination

A new array of outdoor urinals are creating an uproar among residents of Paris, who decry them as tacky, exhibitionist, and maybe even sexist.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 14, 2018

A set of bright red public urinals are provoking ire among residents of Paris. City officials tout the new outdoor "urinoirs" as both eco-friendly and a necessary remedy to public urination, but many everyday Parisians decry the structures as poor taste and crude exhibitionism.


City officials have constructed four of these urinals, which they call "Unitrottoirs"a combination of the French words for urinal and pavementin locations around the city and are planning a fifth. Each one is completely exposed and features an external crevice into which users relieve themselves. Bales of straw inside mix with the urine and create compost for use in parks and gardens.


Mayor Ariel Weil said city planners chose locations where urinating in public has been a problem. But some residents contend that the proposed solution is worse than the alleged problem.


One Unitrottoir inciting particular outrage is situated on the Isle Saint-Louise, an islandoverlooking the Notre Dame cathedral and in full view of tourist boats cruising along the River Seine. Residents have written to city hall demanding this one's removal, arguing that it is a blight on their historic neighborhood.


"We're told we have to accept this but this is absolutely unacceptable. It's destroying the legacy of the island," said the owner of a Parisian art gallery, who asked to remain unnamed. "Can't people behave?"


Paola Pellizzari, owner of a Venetian art store, noted with displeasure that this Unitrottoir is next to the Hotel de Lauzun, where acclaimed French poet Charles Baudelaire lived. It's also 22 yards from a primary school, she added, which she warned raises risks of "exhibitionism."


Gwendoline Coipeault of feminist group Femmes Solidaires said that the urinals are sexist, as well: They implythat "men cannot control themselves" in public and so "all of society has to adapt."

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