In the City of Light, it is now possible to take in a sweeping, flower-filled scene of the River Seine and the historic Notre Dame cathedral — all while emptying one’s bladder in a totally legal, even environmentally friendly way.
Parisian leaders are trying to tackle a problem that is evident to anyone who has ever tried to catch a glimpse of a historic site in a historic city and instead caught a foul-smelling whiff of stale urine.
Meet the uritrottoir, a portmanteau of the French words for “urinal” and “sidewalk.” It is a bright red, free-standing dry urinal that’s meant to give people — well, some people — a place to go other than a cobblestone street or scenic bridge. The uritrottoirs are filled with straw, allegedly odorless, and use the nitrogen and other compounds in urine to produce an organic compost.
But disgusted people who live in the city’s northern neighborhoods have pointed out one big negative to the trial run of the device: The uritrottoirs’ design doesn’t prevent the rest of Paris from seeing someone relieving himself.
On the other hand, flowers grow out of the top.
Ariel Weil, mayor of Paris’ fourth arrondissement, has called it “an invention of genius” that can solve a problem that persists in cities like Paris. “If we don’t do anything, then men are just going to pee in the streets,” he told Reuters.
But residents of the upscale and historic neighborhoods that are dotted with the red urine bins say there has to be a better, less unseemly way.
As one resident said, “Seeing people urinating right in front of your door is not the nicest thing.”