A lot of cities in the world face a really serious and a really disgusting problem: people urinating out in the open. You know the feeling: when youre walking down a street that literally takes your breath away and not in a good way. You make a face and walk on, wondering when the citys going to smell right.
Most of the time, it doesnt even matter if a bathroom is around, just a few feet away; people just pee in public out of sheer laziness. Many cities just clean up the mess after the people are done. But San Francisco has come up with a unique solution: a superhydrophobic paint coating.
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Urinating in public became illegal in San Francisco in 2002, but some people just dont learn and cant hold it in. Back alleys and streets become public bathrooms for those who cant or wont use a public washroom, or those whove just had too much to drink. People were fined amounts up to $500, but still many parts of San Francisco reeked of urine, and you just could not pass them without holding your breath. It was a real nuisance for the Public Works Department of the city. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the department has received 375 requests to steam clean urine making up 5 per cent of its total 7504 requests since January. These requests cover everything from graffiti, to pigeon droppings. Thats a lot of urine, folks! Cities should smell like development and prosperity, not actual urine, dont you think?
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So San Francisco was inspired by Hamburg, Germany, which used hydrophobic paint on the citys walls earlier this year. What is basically done is that a concrete wall is given a $200 coating that repels water, because fines just dont deter people as much as getting splashed with their own urine. Its almost as if the wall pees back! San Francisco spends a whopping $2 million to clean up messes created by people urinating and defecating out in the open and enough was enough for the city.
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There are boards around the city that tell you to respect San Francisco and seek relief in an appropriate place, but the signs dont expressly say that the walls have been coated with hydrophobic paint and that if you pee there, your urine will splash back at you and you will end up soiling your trousers. San Francisco, you sneaky thing !
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The authorities painted nine walls around bars and areas with a problem of homeless populations. This, however, was simply a pilot initiative that began in the last week of July. The test drive seems to be a success though, because the city has already gotten requests for more hydrophobic paint on more of the citys walls.
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As with every new initiative, there are critics. The sceptics here say that the paint is only a gimmick and wont really force people to change their innate behaviour. While others point out that this solution doesnt really combat the real problem: how people, especially the homeless, have nowhere to go. The real solution should be construction of public restrooms rather than this gimmicky, half-hearted one.
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Well, lets hope that at least this initiative combats a little of the smelliness that has become the bane of certain parts of San Francisco.
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When you wet your trousers with your own urine, youll probably think twice the next time your bladder is in distress and hold it for a little while longer till you can find a public restroom, wont you? Take a leaf out of San Franciscos book and make an effort to keep your city clean. Because you never know, your city might get sick of your dirty habits too. Youll know the day when youre happily whistling and peeing out in the open and the wall pees back at you!