Observed Public Restroom Availability Reports
A brief report from the region regarded as most advanced in social services:
Norway: Public restrooms very difficult to find, and when they exist they typically require insertion of a coin. My guidebook also said that free restrooms are hard to find in Oslo. Along the main pedestrian, entertainment, and tourist artery, there was an outdoor cafe that had a sign announcing a restroom: when I went down the stairs, a sign said there was a charge; a waiter happened to be down there and I asked him where to put the money, and he waved not needed; the next evening I went by there (Sunday, a quiet time), the cafe and restroom were all closed down, so I had to buy a sandwich in a small indoor restaurant, rather than go to a hot dog stand as I preferred.
Sweden: Fairly quickly I figured out that you need a 5 Kroner coin to enter almost all restrooms — both public ones and those in restaurants, including McDonalds. This isn’t the worst once you have been there long enough to systematically accumulate 5 Kroner coins. Then you can use e.g. McDonalds restrooms and not feel a little guilty as I do in the U.S. Not cheap, though: 5 Kroners is about 60 cents.
Norway and Sweden: Restrooms are free, of course, in any place where you have to pay an admission charge to get past the gate. But train station restrooms are the coin-entry type. The end points of commuter tram routes do not have public restrooms (free or coin) but: (1) they don’t have big parking lots either, so most of the people getting off must live nearby; (2) there are usually commercial services like cafes in the immediate area, so presumably you could at least use a restroom for the price of a drink.
Denmark: Public restrooms are widely available in public places (including parks, plazas, and commuter train stations), and usually free. Occasionally you do have to pay, usually a 2 Kroner (about 30 cents) coin into a slot. A Danish woman I met who had lived in the College Park MD area in the 1970s told me that it seemed that in the U.S. when they build shopping malls they build the stores only, while in Denmark they seem to build the restroom first and build the stores around it. Her experience was being pregnant in the U.S. and having to go to stores in shopping malls and have to ask where their restroom was. I did tell her that U.S. shopping malls seem to have become better at providing more publically accessible restrooms since then, and that part of her problem may have been living in below-average P.G. county.
Self-cleaning restrooms: I saw one in Stavanger, Norway near the harbor/entertainment area. I saw one in Arhus, Denmark not far from a public area where a lot of people sit; probably a lot of them are youths who drink on the steps rather than pay more to drink at an outdoor cafe. From one observation, I concluded that a self-cleaning restroom was ideal here because youths tend to overdrink and vomit; the self-cleaning restroom claims to clean everything including the floors regularly. I did not use either of these self-cleaning restrooms myself, however.
Netherlands: A Dutchman now living in Norway told me that in Amsterdam (or maybe all of Holland — I’m not sure) a law was passed that all restaurants and bars must allow anyone off the street to use their restroom for free. This was done because previously too many men urinated on the sidewalk, etc. Note that Netherlands is extremely crowded — the most densely populated country after Bangladesh.
Question: When I visited San Diego I did not find any public facilities.
I currently live in SD and have no problem finding facilities. There is a city facility near the Civic Center, lots of places at Horton Plaza, Seaport Village, G Street Pier, Harbor Island and Shelter Island have public restrooms, along with all the city libraries, city parks (337 of them), rec centers (53 of them), not to mention tons of restrooms at all public beaches. Maybe they are not as well marked as they should be for visitors, or maybe I know where they all are because of my prostate, but they exist. I wonder if the Visitors and Convention Bureau provides maps that include restrooms ? It would be a good idea for all cities to have such a map available to residents and visitors.
From: Bob Johnson
Sent: Sunday, January 06, 2002 8:23 PM
Subject: Re: Advocacy for Public Restrooms
Question: Doesn’t San Francisco have some kind of coin-operated toilets in little green kiosks? How does that work for them?
San Francisco is cracking down on the sex, drug use and just plain sleeping that has been going on inside its high-tech pay potties. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to talk toilets Monday, when it is expected to vote on legislation that requires just one toilet user at a time, unless a child or disabled person needs a helper inside, and bans loitering within 20 feet of the sleek green self-cleaning commodes.
Police first would warn violators, but a repeat offense could generate a citation that carries a fine of as much as $100. A subsequent violation could lead to a $500 fine. The board’s Neighborhood Services and Parks Committee yesterday passed the plan, proposed by Supervisor Tony Hall, with little discussion. The toilet manufacturer, JCDecaux Co. of France, applauded the idea as a necessary police tool to protect San Francisco’s 25 street toilets.
“We basically see the same people day in and day out,” said Francois Nion, chief executive officer of JCDecaux USA, the parent company’s subsidiary, about the homeless and drug addicts who abuse the toilets.
City Hall’s focus on the facilities comes after Chronicle reports that misuse and mechanical malfunctions plague about 25 percent of the toilets. Some users interviewed admitted they sell sex or shoot up and smoke drugs inside the roomy bathrooms. City records also showed that JCDecaux maintenance workers regularly found homeless
people sleeping inside despite a 20-minute time limit. Some users pried locked doors open or jammed them shut to stay inside longer. The problem had become so bad in certain areas, such as the Tenderloin, that the Police Department asked JCDecaux to lock those toilets at night. Police spokesman Dewayne Tully said that if the proposed law passes Monday, the department probably won’t send out special details to patrol the toilets, but officers will keep their eyes on them as part of their regular beats.
From: Bob Johnson
Subject: Re: Advocacy for Public Restrooms
Newsgroups: sci.med.prostate.prostatitis Date: 2002-01-05 19:35:08 PST
Flunking the Bathroom Test
In an ideal world, says Chris Cooper, school children would be allowed to use the bathroom whenever they felt the urge. As a pediatric urologist, he knows that this would cut down on incontinence, infections and the long-lasting humiliation associated with having accidents in class.
But Cooper’s recent survey of school-time potty practices, published in the September issue of the Journal of Urology, shows that this ideal remains a pipe dream.
Cooper, associate professor of urology at University of Iowa, sent questionnaires to a random sampling of 1,000 elementary-school teachers throughout Iowa; 467 completed and returned the surveys. Of these, 80 percent reported using set times for student bathroom breaks; within this group, 61 percent of these teachers requested that all children go to the bathroom at those set times, while 39 percent sent only those who chose to go. Forty percent of respondents allowed children to use the bathroom at any time; one-third said they had asked kids requesting a bathroom break during class to wait.
Because kids spend half their waking hours in school on many days, Cooper says, what happens there can influence their overall toilet-use behavior. Many children have trouble producing on demand, he says, and therefore are ill-served when they’re only allowed to use the bathroom at set times.
“The ideal situation would be to allow children to go to the bathroom when they need to go,” Cooper says. “I’m realistic that that’s probably not realistic.”
Source: Washington Post Health Section Family News 9/9/03 Page F4
The state Department of Transportation is well aware of the problem of travelers relieving themselves in inappropriate places along the highway,… The DOT has a goal of providing a safe and sanitary place to rest every 60 miles on rural highways
Source: The Seattle Times ‘The roadside not truckers’ toilet’ 9/29/06
American Restroom Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 21237
Catonsville, MD 21228
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