Empêche-pipi or how to prevent wild peeing in Paris


Paris is full with little oddities and unusual things to see. One of them are empêche-pipi that can still be seen in many parts of the French capital, particularly at street angles. Let me tell you what these curious little structures are about…

The empêche-pipi of Paris

When walking in the streets of Paris, you have probably seen something looking like this:

Empêche-pipi Paris

Empêche-pipi at 10 rue de Thorigny © French Moments

Found in corners, the French call them ‘empêche-pipi’ and they are part of the street furniture of Paris alongside benches, lamp posts, fountains or bollards. 

In 1850, following numerous complaints from citizens, a Chief of the Paris Police thought of a pee-repellent dispositive. His solution was to adorn the incriminated angles with ironworks (sometimes dotted with sharp spikes) or cone-shaped structures fixed against the wall.

Empêche-pipi Paris

Empêche-pipi at the church of Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais © French Moments

They were called empêche-pipi, literally prevent pee. Other names in French included dispositifs anti-pisouille, pisse-pala, borne sanitaire, casse-pipi, casse-brayette, éclabousseur de chaussettes.

These anti-pee dispositives played a deterrent function: the pee would bounce directly back onto the legs and feet of the public pee-er, soaking their trousers – regardless of the jet’s power!

This aspect of Paris I dislike

I have to confess that there are some aspects of Paris I dislike. The smell of urine (from dogs or drunk men) is one of them. Walking through the streets of Paris can sometimes feel like going back to the Middle-Ages! Every little corners are favourite spots for a drunkard: doorways, behind trees and cars, on the steps down to the Métro… Public urination has a French name: pipi sauvage (wild peeing).

Outdoor urination in a public place was – and is still – forbidden. It is punishable by fines (35 euros).

Here and there you might read a notice fixed onto the doorways of residential buildings: « This door is the entrance to our building. Be nice and go and urinate elsewhere ».

Fortunately, the anti-pee dispositive was first supplemented with urinoirs and today with free sanisettes. I’ll have to write another piece of article for that! 🙂


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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management.

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