Paris Tries To Control Rampant Public Urination With Sidewalk Urinals

(NPR) Interview, September 12, 2018 — STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Paris came up with a new answer to an old problem. Parisians rank this particular problem as one of the city’s worst, although many do not like the mayor’s solution. NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley investigates.


ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: An accordion player is entertaining tourists on the Ile Saint-Louis, one of the most historic and picturesque neighborhoods in Paris. But these days, it’s not the architecture or history of the island that’s drawing people’s attention…

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Laughter) Absolument, oui.

BEARDSLEY: …But a square red structure near the riverbank. You could mistake it for a mailbox if it weren’t for a sign with a cartoon figure of a man relieving himself.

ANDREE LEFEBRE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: “It’s disgusting. And it’s going to smell in the heat,” says Ile Saint-Louis resident Andree LeFebre (ph). “The mayor is crazy.”

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Others who stopped to look at the urinal express similar indignation. “How can they put this in such a historic place?” asks one man. “It’s embarrassing to have men unzipping and urinating in front of your children,” says a mother.


BEARDSLEY: At Paris Town Hall, I meet Olivier Fraisseix, director of cleanliness for the city.

OLIVIER FRAISSEIX: We have a huge problem in Paris of urine. So during August, we decided to experiment a new system to try to do something new.

BEARDSLEY: So far, there are only four of these experimental sidewalk urinals known as uritrottoir, French for urinal and sidewalk. They’re eco-friendly and have two parts, a receptacle on the bottom filled with straw and other composting materials and a top part with a small flower garden. Fraisseix says compost from the urinals will be used in city gardens.