The stench of urine in the streets has long been one of the annoyances of life in Paris, but new urinals that expose users to public view have shocked many residents.
The French often joke about being less “prudish” than Britons, but even permissive Parisians have taken exception to open ‘pissoirs’ installed on pavements with nothing to screen users from passers-by.
One model, in letterbox red, topped by a flower-box and installed on the ultra-chic Ile Saint-Louis, one of the city’s most select quarters, has caused particular indignation.
The island in the Seine, normally a haven of relative calm in the heart of Paris, has become an unlikely hotbed of protest. Residents and shopkeepers have written to the mayor demanding the urinal’s immediate removal and say they are about to launch a petition.
Paola, a local shopkeeper, said: “I’m ashamed, you understand. Planting a plastic urinal like that beneath the windows of the Lauzun mansion, one of the most beautiful on the island, where [the poet] Baudelaire lived, it’s such bad taste. Paris is making itself ridiculous.”
Paola acknowledged that residents had long been urging the authorities to install urinals because young people who spend the long summer evenings on the banks of the Seine had taken to urinating in the streets. “But this model, 20 metres (yards) from a primary school, is not suitable at all.”
En soi l'idée est bonne. Mais les pissotières ça ne se cale pas en plein passage. On les met contre un mur, avec des paravents, dans un coin sans trop de monde… Pas en plein milieu d'une place, en face d'une terrasse, aux 4 vents… pic.twitter.com/0WB6gzHJNQ
— Nicolas Moreau (@lordmahammer) August 11, 2018
Wouter, 43, a visitor from Amsterdam, said he had used it, but felt uncomfortable. “Public toilets are usually more hidden. At first I thought it was a modern art installation because of the flower box on top.”
The urinal is “environmentally friendly”, according to its manufacturer, the Faltazi design agency, because it “stores urine in a bed of dry material, straw, which is then used as compost for the flowers”. The straw reduces odour and eliminates the need for the urinal to be connected to the sewer.
Four minimalist urinals installed in Paris in the past six months have drawn similar reactions. A fifth is planned next week.
The mayor’s office said they are “a response to the needs of shopkeepers and residents”.
Victor Massip, the inventor of the model installed on the Ile Saint-Louis, said: “People urinating on the streets of France is a serious problem and we knew there was a demand for a solution, so we’ve come up with one.” He has named it the “uritrottoir”, combining the French words for ‘urinate’ and ‘pavement’.
Bill Wilson, 50, a visitor from Leicester, said: “I think this wouldn’t be allowed in the UK. Only in France!”