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:
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.
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! 🙂