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!

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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! 🙂



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. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French 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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