Public Spaces: Downtown's Lack of Public BathroomsOctober 14, 2016 3 comments Print Article
Today, finding a bathroom in an emergency downtown can be as problematic as finding a whale fisherman in Kansas. While one might be convinced that they exist in theory, the reality might be a series of disappointments. As part of this week's series on urban public spaces we present a few points in favor of reopening public bathrooms in the public spaces of downtown.
In a well meaning attempt to cut down on drug dealing, public sex and other behaviors, Downtown and indeed, most of Jacksonville's public areas, closed down all public bathrooms.
As detailed in Metrojacksonville's article The Homeless are the Paramount End Users Downtown, the lack of public bathrooms has caused a real and measurable problem in the form of public defecation and urination, unsightly problems to say the least.
But maybe the answer is very simple and already in use in thousands of cities across Europe.
The main objection that the downtown community has to public bathrooms is rooted in the area's history with the concept. In the 1950's there were lavatories installed in Hemming Park which became a public scandal----mostly due to their design.
The bathrooms were underground, accessible by stairs leading below street level, and unsupervised.
One doesn't need to be very imaginative to guess what happened in the 1970's with the urban explosion of drugs and crime in these dark, impossible to monitor little subterranean getaways.
Apparently the lingering psychic scars have prevented generations of Jacksonvillians from even mentioning the idea of public bathrooms ever again.
But the problems ascribed to them are easily solved by simple design changes.
An open bottom, opaque sided and often open topped design prevents many problems.
An open bottom prevents anything from happening between more than one set of legs that wouldn't immediately be visible.
And an open top leaves the area well ventilated and more sanitary.
Here are a few attractive and easy to replicate designs that are familiar sites throughout the cities of Europe.
They would be a simple solution to downtown's lack of amenities as well as its fear of repeating history.