I noticed it the most when I used to have a lot of meetings downtown. I would often park at Telus Convention Centre after driving in an hour from High River and need to use the loo and the bathrooms would be roped off. If I parked in Epcor Centre and needed to go, the door had a keycode lock as did most of the downtown office buildings where I would go for meetings. Bathrooms at the gas station need a key. Most retail stores have “staff only” bathrooms. Restaurants and coffee shops are for “customers only”.
If I have this much trouble finding a spot to get relief and I know the city pretty well, imagine the difficulty for tourists. Plus, most of us can hold it if we can’t find a place to go, but it’s not as easy for pregnant women, those with intestinal problems, men with enlarged prostates and others who need toilets fast. There are also workers who are out of their homes all day couriers, truckers, mail delivery staff and others who have to be on constant lookout for a place to stop.
Of course there are issues of people misusing washrooms: homeless people washing their feet, people doing drugs, couples having sex. But it hardly seems right that because 1 per cent of people might misuse the facilities, the remaining 99 per cent of the rest of us have to suffer with full bladders.
Think about the places you like to walk and people watch in Calgary: bike paths, Prince’s Island Park, Kensington, Bridgeland, 17th Avenue, 4th Street, Stephen Avenue Mall. If you can’t easily think of a quick place for a potty break, then visitors to Calgary certainly won’t be able to either.
Bob McInnis, a consultant with Remarkable People, is on a mission to change this. His website yycpublicloo.com profiles how other cities have managed to find a way to solve this problem.
A few of the ideas Bob suggests are to have the city make existing publicly owned restrooms open and accessible. Get better signage so people know where public washrooms are. Look at Portland’s design for single stall public washrooms. Make “Go Here” stickers available to retailers and restaurateurs who are willing to open their doors for visitor pitstops. Put up more port-a-potties in public parks.
We spend a lot of time talking about big ideas to make Calgary more attractive for tourists. Maybe the place to start is with small ideas that can make a big difference. After all, we all need to pee.
You can listen to my discussion with Bob below: