One of the letterbox-red “urinoirs” installed on the Ile Saint-Louis, one of the French capital’s most prestigious postcodes, has caused a particular uproar.
Ile Saint-Louis residents and shopkeepers have demanded its removal and have even threatened to launch a petition.
“There’s no need to put something so immodest and ugly in such an historic spot,” Paola Pellizzari, the owner of a Venetian art store said.
Mrs Pellizzari, 68, added that she feared the urinal, which is located some 20 metres from a primary school, could “incite exhibitionism”.
It’s destroying the legacy of the island
The 50-year-old owner of a nearby art gallery said: “It’s horrible. We’re told we have to accept this but this is absolutely unacceptable.
“It’s destroying the legacy of the island.”
Laurence Parisot, the former president of the Medef employers union, denounced it as “another Parisian screw up”.
But Laurent Lenot, the co-designer of the “uritrottoir” – a combination of the French words for urinal and pavement – said the portable loo, which is essentially a box with an opening in the front and a floral display on top, offered an “eco-friendly solution to public peeing”.
“It stores urine in a bed of dry material, straw, which is then used as compost for the flowers,” Mr Lenot told French media.
The straw neutralises smells and eliminates the need for the device to be connected to the sewer.
Some Parisians have argued that the urinals are discriminatory.
“They have been installed on a sexist proposition: men cannot control [their bladders] and so all of society has to adapt,” Gwendoline Coipeault of the French feminist group Femmes Solidaires said.
She added: “It’s absurd, no one needs to urinate in the street.”
Local mayor Ariel Weil, for his part, said that the urinals were “necessary”.
Paris authorities have installed the stand-up toilets in spots were public peeing has been a problem, he argued, adding that a fifth would soon be rolled out.
“If we don’t do anything then men are just going to pee in the streets,” he continued. “But if it is really bothering people, we will move them to another location.”
Paris officials have since told the French news channel BFMTV that the urinals would be moved to more “discreet” spots in response to the outrage.