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The World’s Most High-Tech Urinal

written by John Chow on November 18, 2006

uopm

In an effort to handle its nighttime public urination problem, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is considering installing urinals that disappear below street level during the day. Unlike the automated, self-cleaning toilets planned for Toronto and Vancouver, which are enclosed booths with doors that that automatically open after a set time period, the Urilift system is a two-meter high stainless steel cylinder with three alcoves, each with a urinal, and no doors.

By day, the Urilift is lowered below street level for a nice clean look. Then at night, an operator comes by with a remote and the Urilift hydraulically lifts to sidewalk level in about two minutes. Then the unit is ready to serve all the nighttime party animals who don’t mind peeing in a very exposed public urinal.

urilift-4bdef.jpg urilift-3bdef.jpg
urilift-2bdef.jpg urilift-1bdef.jpg

Because there are no doors, there is little danger of any unauthorized or illegal activities. San Francisco and Seattle’s auto-toilets have been derided as dens for drug dealers and prostitutes. In addition, the presence of an attendant nearby to lower the system in the morning means it’s unlikely a drunken reveler who slumps over the Urilift will wake up under the street.

The urinals are designed exclusively for men, and more specifically, for male drinkers. The $75,000 system has been installed across the Netherlands, and have spread to London and Belfast, but Victoria will be the first North American city to try them out.

Since it’s my tax dollars paying for this system, I contacted Urilift to find out more about it. They sent me the above photos and this video. Enjoy.

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{ 105 comments }

Matt November 18, 2006 at 5:02 pm

I’m astonished.

William Wilkinson November 18, 2006 at 5:14 pm

Haha. When I read this I assumed that it was in Europe or something, but Victoria took me right off guard. I live in Victoria! Can’t wait to see one of these babies.

Nomar November 18, 2006 at 6:10 pm

why europe?? europe rules.. intersting article john.. never stood still by this piece of history

Mayo November 18, 2006 at 6:34 pm

This reminds me of a movie – i don’t know if it was Superman, Robocop, Batman or something else…
The guy had a underground shelter(pallace) and exited and enterd via cylindrical elevator, something just like this pissoar, only that it was a elevator and not a pissoar ;)

Carl November 18, 2006 at 6:43 pm

Definitely something you’d expect in forward-thinking Europe, not Canada (interesting how “Nomar” got so defensive when someone said the same thing…).

I have pissed in public on many occasions while partying, so this is a great idea I think!

Me November 18, 2006 at 7:17 pm

I want to go underground when I pee. :(

Eli November 18, 2006 at 7:31 pm

Did anybody notice the device exhibit “the post urination shiver” in the shot of the urinal rising (02:18)? Funny.

Michael November 18, 2006 at 7:55 pm

That promo video is a little strange, but… strangely effective. These hydraulic pee-collectors are certainly more attractive than those ugly Porto-potties, but oh my, look at the price! That’s almost enough to buy a PS3.

Robert November 18, 2006 at 8:06 pm

Sure, nobody is going to go underground in it, but what about the bum that falls asleep on top of it. Imagine his delight when he wakes up at 2:00 am to the sound of the falls. I think this is a pretty good idea, Paris could use a few, and I think Ozzy would agree so could the Alamo.

nevermind November 18, 2006 at 8:22 pm

what about women – how are they supposed to use it?

what is that awesome music at 3:10??? on my screen the banana’s dancing above are in sync with the beats :-)

mike November 18, 2006 at 8:37 pm

75k…. wow. i think it’s good for places where ppl r bold enuff 2 take a piss during the day. just one thing…. how about washing hands after piss? ewwwwww imagine shaking hands wit dat person :s

jessie November 18, 2006 at 9:08 pm

That is not real, totally photoshopped!

Tawker November 18, 2006 at 9:13 pm

Wait a second. You’re in Vancouver (so within 100km of me) and yet the urinals are to be installed in Victoria (a 30 min HeliJet ride way) – it’s municipal jurisdiction – unless you own property in both cities it’s unlikely you’d be paying for them.

Oh well, hopefully they’ll work ok and not smell. It’s great to see another Vancouverite around.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 18, 2006 at 9:18 pm

Few questions: how does the urinal know when to go down into the ground? If it’s not in use, it goes back underground, so by what parameter does it determine it to be the optimal time to “hide”? Secondly, what if the darn thing malfunctions as somebody goes on top of the cap while it’s underground and it suddenly starts elevating? I guess it’s ok if it moves slowly enough, but if there’s a vehicle above it and it screws up by elevating at that point in time, there will be some lawsuits flying.

Gavin November 18, 2006 at 10:22 pm

wow, that’s a great idea. But wouldn’t it be easier to make a solid building (like a landmark item or something scenic) that has a sliding door that opens once a day? That would drastically reduce the costs of the hydraulics.

Notbert November 18, 2006 at 10:53 pm

Robert: No one can get caught by surprise whilst sleeping on one when it is raised (or lowered) as a technician has to come by and use a remote control within a few feet of it to make it go up or down. They will make sure no one is on top of it or using it before it is raised or lowered.

cameron November 18, 2006 at 11:44 pm

i have seen and use similar urinals in amsterdam, that rise from the ground at night, how is this different

John Chow November 18, 2006 at 11:54 pm

They are the same as the units in Amsterdam. Just this is the first time this system is being install in North America.

Mobile 360 November 19, 2006 at 1:44 am

I would personally like a tap to wash my hands in, but I prefer this than people freely urinating in the street.

Lorenzo November 19, 2006 at 2:33 am

I’ve also used these urinals in Amsterdam. Comes in real handy if you really need to GO! The only problem is that the urinals are smelly and dirty. People throw their cigarette butts, gum etc. in the pots which cause them to overflow…

Gdog November 19, 2006 at 2:37 am

Ahh…good to see my hometown is still up to no good. ;)

Party Freak November 19, 2006 at 6:45 am

Really stupid idea. Why build toilets that are only useable for half the population half the time. Build normal toilets instead, and make sure that they are kept clean. Lack of public restrooms is a problem during both day and night.

Pete November 19, 2006 at 7:27 am

So now we spend $75K on a pissing pot because some people can’t control themselves . Where does it end? Anyone else feeling angry?

Nomar November 19, 2006 at 7:27 am

pretty cool urinal :D hope the will be in dutchland soon to !!

Naomi November 19, 2006 at 7:47 am

You men are sick, SICK!

haha!

Reorx November 19, 2006 at 8:20 am

They should play the song from the starwars (the march of the imperials) when that thing rises from the ground.

Ian November 19, 2006 at 8:41 am

I’ve just noticed your RSS readership has gone up to 1498 from around 950 in a couple of hours! Howdya do that?!

Memo November 19, 2006 at 8:48 am

Very cool. We need these in Daytona.

Oliver November 19, 2006 at 8:53 am

There has been one of these on North Road Durham UK for at least the past two years

Aragnut November 19, 2006 at 9:09 am

For the attentive listener, these things are already installed in the netherlands (dutch cops, dutch numberplates, yes even dutch taxi’s). So it is NOT photoshopped (jessie). I think it’s a great idea, much better then the plastic 4 sided ones here in Eindhoven (NL) that indeed stand in the way during the day (as seen in the movie).

Sam November 19, 2006 at 9:32 am

Slashdotted.

smile November 19, 2006 at 9:35 am

smile you’re on slashdot

arjun November 19, 2006 at 9:36 am
AchilleTalon November 19, 2006 at 10:45 am

I guess there was some political pressures to make it happen specifically in Victoria. I was told NDP’s leader, Jack Layton, is a big fan of Victoria and a party animal as well. Seems he would like to avoid being shot by a camera in a compromising position. These urinals make sense for him.

Lola November 19, 2006 at 11:06 am

I am seriously pissed that they don’t have a unisex model. I have NO PROBLEM with urinating in public, and I think the only reason guys are more likely to “urinate indiscriminately” is that they are better able to get away with it, rather than any inherent lack of modesty. If I could just whip it out without more elaborate disrobing and squatting I’d pee on a church, too!

I wonder, if women just started peeing on the thing, if they would come up with a unisex model? It would just need a little trough we could straddle…

Blake November 19, 2006 at 11:45 am

dude one of those were in amsterdam!!!! i thought i was seeing shit,for apparent reasons, when it was moving.

Tomas November 19, 2006 at 11:51 am

Interesting concept, but I question the basic idea of NOT having them available during the day. Did anyone notice that the problem examples at the beginning of the video all appeared to be during the day?

I also agree with the comments about no hand washing facilities and the question, of course, “what about the women?”

BOJ November 19, 2006 at 12:31 pm

Aquí no hay de eso!! Las mujeres no mean?

Paul November 19, 2006 at 12:42 pm

We have one of those in Reading, Berkshire, UK. It’s been there for a few years. Feels a bit odd using it (just outside the 3B’s – back of M&S) but since i’m not shy…..

Ana November 19, 2006 at 1:04 pm

where do we, girls, pee?

Mark January 28, 2007 at 5:40 pm

Looks like girls could simply stick their butts in it and pee. Shoudn’t be a problem.

funkyamish November 19, 2006 at 1:31 pm

You know who really needs these…. New Orleans and OSU this past weekend during the Michigan game.

lode November 19, 2006 at 2:02 pm

Anyone know what the music at 3:10 is? If you do, please drop me an email at lodestar dot signup at gmail

Jeff November 19, 2006 at 2:07 pm

I don’t think I could do it. I guess if I were use to peeing on the corners of buildings, it might be a different story.

Peemaster November 19, 2006 at 2:34 pm

I have a phobia of peeing while people are watching… I’d never be able to go. I’d have to find the nears dark corridore in the corner of a building or behind a bush somewhere.

hegerty November 19, 2006 at 2:47 pm

In the EU, it’s very common to have women share the mens room. They sell cheap “pee sticks” all over that allow women to pee standing up. America is so behind the times. While it takes a little bit of getting use to, having a woman pee in a urinal isn’t all that weird.

simon November 19, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Here’s another solution:

You philistines learn how to behave in public and USE A TOILET.

It works quite well for us down here in New Zealand.

Walter Ego November 19, 2006 at 3:17 pm

Ha! Did you ever see girls urinating in public before? Maybe in the woods when there is no other option. I’ve certainly never seen a girl walk into an ally, pull up her skirt, move the panties to the side and let go…

These urinals are meant to stop people from public urinating at night and they work extremely well. In my city they’re used plenty.

Funny to see everybody here thinking this was a hoax story or something.

Ben Metcalfe November 19, 2006 at 3:47 pm

Hmmm, these have been around in London, especially SoHo, for several years.

In fact the ‘built up’ nature of SoHo and the fact it’s also the home to the gay scene* of London makes them quite intimidating to use.

You’d have to be drunk to want to use on, I think… Oh yeah that’s point.

* = this is not a homophobic comment, just a reflection that ‘toilets’ do have an (unfortunate ?) association with the gay scene and thus bringing the toilets to the street kerb in a gay area is an interesting discussion point.

Sarah J November 19, 2006 at 3:54 pm

Lol, I clicked a link off of ebaumsworld and expected something like a urinal with a computer, instead I see the urinals from my town. Go victoria!

Rex November 19, 2006 at 4:00 pm

You Canadians sure do like to Pee

Guy looking for that song November 19, 2006 at 5:27 pm

I’m in San Francisco and you guys are right, our street urinals suck. BUT I have a very important questionL What was that dance/techno song at about 3:10 in the video?

‘When I choose to go out! I always see the night life…etc.”

I gotta find that song! somebody help me out.

Vancouverite November 19, 2006 at 7:04 pm

Well, they don’t pop up automatically. You have an attendant wander by with what looks like a wireless remote that commands them to go up or down… so anyone sleeping on it, or who has crap on it, will not find the unpleasant suprise of suddenly being about two meters aboveground.

Second, the secondary main issue (and why they don’t just install more public bathrooms, at least here in BC) is a tendency for said to be used for drug deals and other unsavory activity, as they provide great private places to do business. These urinals have no such privacy.

Jack Aski November 19, 2006 at 7:19 pm

Install along all ocean coasts. People tend to piss in the sand closest to the inland sometimes. Then in the day people might place thier towel down in the dry/moist piss. Never place your towel next to any entrance ways or any walls. Basically when the view in blocked from at least one direction people piss there in the night. Intensely along the coasts. It sucks that you wouldn’t know that and go the beach.

Joseph Mitchelli November 19, 2006 at 8:26 pm

What an absolutely BRILLIANT idea !!!

Specially for those that are incontinent, or like me nd have kids that want to go toilet every 5 minutes of the day.

I’d be interested to know the prices of them, as it has real merit.

Perhaps the Australian government should look to installing some of these.

Big bonus is being open, I doubt someone would get mugged/robbed using them.

Such a simple idea, and a brilliant concept.

Derrich November 19, 2006 at 8:31 pm

You’ve got to be frikken kidding me…

Bob November 19, 2006 at 9:11 pm

Although they are urinals, what stops people from defecating in them?

lacy November 19, 2006 at 10:15 pm

The only problem is, you will get some jackasses who will take a dump in it

Foo November 19, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Why not just require all pubs and restraunts provide bathrooms, and pay a municiple contract to outfits willing to provide a simple restroom. I’m sure a number of pathetic shops can find room for a simple restroom if it is subsidized less than $75k.

rich November 20, 2006 at 12:59 am

these are really common in England !!

been about for about 10 years…

nice to see were not behind the US in the important technologies

taxes November 20, 2006 at 1:41 am

urban legend or photoshop?

;-)

Paulstar November 20, 2006 at 2:33 am

Got one of those in The Hague next to the cinema. Really nice.

derrick November 20, 2006 at 5:13 am

find a tree, go ahead try it, boys and girls

Kreukels November 20, 2006 at 5:28 am

We’ve got one in Groningen too.
Works like a charm!

pj November 20, 2006 at 7:08 am

which church is the one in the very beginnig the first guy urinates? is that in amsterdam?

Richard November 20, 2006 at 7:44 am

Heard while walking in the street:
“Help! Someone, anyone! I’m trapped in this toilet!”

Shabba November 20, 2006 at 8:16 am

This is a great idea but the video was a bit stupid. its specifically designed for night time use but all the CCTV example footage were taken during the day.

Cory November 20, 2006 at 8:53 am

Hey Mayo…the movie your thinking of is Grimlins 2

Trai Davenport November 20, 2006 at 9:17 am

I predict you will NEVER see one of these in the US! This is still public indecency and I can’t believe municipalities anywhere would put up with it, much less support it. It is funny though.

Sentinel November 20, 2006 at 11:34 am

A ver lo q duran sin q la peña los joda…

Lee Majors November 20, 2006 at 12:10 pm

“I swear officer, there was a pissoir here a moment ago.”

Chris November 20, 2006 at 2:13 pm

I suspect as the U.S. population ages you will see a demand for more public restrooms. However, something like this is too public for the average American.

jeff November 20, 2006 at 4:30 pm

Thoroughly idiotic!
It would violate so many laws in the USA it’s not even remotely funny.
It discriminates against women, it has no door, so the user would get hit with a possible public indecency charge! Surprise the guy & he turns around!
A perfect time & place for an armed robbery or mugging!
As for the claim by some commenter above that it require a technician to come by & raise it, so there can’t be any injuries, I can’t wait until someone clones the remote unit & controls it while someone is standing on it or their car is parked over it!
Or while it’s in use, it gets lowered!
It works in freezing weather, hah, let’s see it work in Minneapolis in January, it will be frozen solid!
As for it being vandal proof, install one in New York City, it would last just a few hours!
What a total waste [pun intended] of money!
Just require bars to have many more toilets & urinals. And clean them!
Or go to McDonald’s.

techdomain.com.au November 20, 2006 at 5:28 pm

dont know if “public indecency” really fits… whats really indecent is the mess that is left from ppl urinating where-ever they like!

jtow November 20, 2006 at 7:32 pm

I thought Europeans were supposed to be the prim and proper ones about appearance, dress and language. Now you’re all peeing in the streets where everyone can see… what a shame. Ever heard of something called civic services where toilets are provided to patrons at no cost? Perhaps if you had something like that provided by your government you wouldn’t be flopping out your dicks in public.

zoom lense November 20, 2006 at 8:22 pm

ne body have a zoom lense handy

jeff November 20, 2006 at 8:41 pm

Australia: Urinating in public is often charged as public indecency here.
And make no mistake about it, anyone using it is doing it in public!
You might as well have an open trough for this instead.

Walter Ego November 21, 2006 at 12:30 am

I hear so many people talk about discrimination in regards to this. How can this ever be discrimation, it’s meant to stop urinating in public, it’s not meant to stop urinating in normal toilets.

‘This is godsent, maybe now people will finally stop peeing in my toilets’ said a local Victoria bar owner today in response to the news.

Yep…

ninestonecowboy November 21, 2006 at 6:14 am

personally i cant wait for people too get catapulted thru the air in broad daylight when someone hacks the signal frequency(and they will)and starts fuckin flipping people like human burgers on to the pavement…….now thats money well spent ;)…and the operator havin a boring night and playin a game of up/down follow the bog games…the possibilities are endless….

IAMsterdam November 21, 2006 at 8:32 am

The video was shot in a place called Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. Not sure about the place where the old church is. Could be Amsterdam though.

jtow: your’e Merikan right?
Have you ever been to Europe? Hmmm… I guess you don’t even have a passport like most of you lot.

AlexC November 21, 2006 at 8:35 am

bah, they’ve had on of these in durham (uk) for a couple of years

MJ November 21, 2006 at 8:59 am

I’ve seen the one in Belfast. It puts them out on the main street when previously they would stink up an alley which became known as “Pish Alley”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/northern_ireland/4291635.stm

It’s not something to be proud of. I think that the police should stand beside it and arrest these animals for indecent exposure.

Mel November 22, 2006 at 2:55 am

To those asking about the song at 3:10 — learn to Google! Kripes.

It took me about three seconds to find out it’s “Love Come Home” by DJ Jean. (Link to lyrics here — but be warned, pop-ups galore.)

Mario November 22, 2006 at 9:52 am

A little note for the girls. Imagin a Unisex Urinal. How many of you complain about men peeing on the seat. Would you really want to use it after a hundred drunken men (who can’t hit the target whe they are sobor) have went all over it. Did you notice in the film thay had drains in the floor for run off. Also these are only ment to be Urinals. Don’t try to tell me a few woman wouldn’t take a dump in one. Or transients for that mater.

Anton November 22, 2006 at 9:54 am

Hi, i live in Taunton (Somerset, UK), we had one of these put in our centre of town about a month ago!

They also have them everywhere in London!

Shake Spear November 22, 2006 at 10:15 am

2 pee or not to pee??? who gives a shit!!!!!!!

Me November 22, 2006 at 10:25 am

They have had these in the UK for years…

Siggi November 22, 2006 at 2:34 pm

its much better like we do in iceland there we just wear dipers when whe go too party because of the cold its dangerous to take your friend out

milo November 22, 2006 at 8:39 pm

there are a couple things that I would be curious about. Where does it open up to when hidden? you could technically stand in one of the urinal spots and wait for it to go down. then would you be let out under the city? also why is it so ok for guys to urinate in public but not women? if this were for women people would be outraged!

Michiel November 23, 2006 at 4:28 am

Hmmm.. we have these things for about 3 years now in Amersfoort, in the netherlands.. so whats new…

Charles Fort November 23, 2006 at 3:16 pm

“made of solid stainless steel”…..im surprised they arent being ripped off with chains and 4×4′s and melted down somewhere for the price of the steel.

Kat November 24, 2006 at 12:03 pm

I think this is a good idea, and I am not offended that it is only for men.. If we had them here in CA my boyfriend wouldn’t have watered someone’s bushes so many times!
“jeff” is right though, many people here in the states don’t give a f*ck about our environment and would vandalize the heck out of these things instead of take advantage of the gift. And people here are just WAITING for some event to come up so they can sue someone for $$$; you know there’d be some ultra-feminist group raising hell about the public indecency thing….
….A lot of people here in the states are too ignorant to use something like this…

elaina November 25, 2006 at 12:11 am

there is obviously not a problem for women to find a restroom to relieve themselves so why is it ok for men to piss all over every nook and cranny. Maybe I am just jealous. HELLO ya lazy pigs find a bathroom like the ladies do. Your urge to pee is no different then ours after a six-pack and then some. UNBELIEVABLE!!

David Mackey November 25, 2006 at 2:26 pm

Pretty fascinating.

Almi November 26, 2006 at 5:14 am

Hmm… wonder if the “problem people” that urinate on church walls and such places will be the once that stand patiently waiting for this urinal to elevate? I have serious doubts. They will probably piss on top of it or something instead…. It is a cool urinal, but I don’t think it is very practical…

Almi November 26, 2006 at 5:31 am

Ok…so it is not elevated by every individual. Just had a closer look at the article and the video… that makes it more practical.

By the way; Is there any physiological reason why men need these things, and tax dollars should be spent on it? Maybe men should pay a bit more tax for not being able to urinate in the right places?? :P

Makes me think of male dogs….

Richard November 26, 2006 at 7:06 pm

While it won’t take long for the local homeless to render these things almost uselesss,I still think it’s not a bad idea.Of course,if the local politicians want to do something to eliminate the night time pissers,they might want to start making laws to require that Bars and pubs have sanitation facilities for patrons.The building codes,in Texas,already require it.If you don’t have a restroom,you don’t get a permit for a business.You are required to have enough toilets to handle the amount of traffic you will have in your establishment.

Emil November 27, 2006 at 8:38 am

It would be good to know what happens when the urinal is sinking and someone left in.

Donald November 27, 2006 at 11:37 am

We could never have one of these in the U.S. Some idiot would get killed while it was moving down and a lawyer would sue for $200 million.

aszited November 28, 2006 at 12:48 pm

szar az ódal bammee

Blinky114 December 4, 2006 at 1:25 pm

I think this is a great idea for busy urban areas. FYI for those of you not listening/reading/watching: Raised/lowered by human with remote control while said human watches progress. To those of you needing a sink: Do you often urinate on yourselves while using a urinal? To John Chow, re: 01 dec 2006 15:10 POST: Is this really “YOUR” story?
BTW – nice blog, my first visit here. I look forward to reading more.

agent420 December 18, 2006 at 10:10 am

Most of hy female friends have urinated in public at one time or another, it seems that most Americans (I am one as well) just want to pretend that no one ever used the bathroom. That being said, I’d still just rather pee in an alley where it is more private.

mahesh January 9, 2007 at 8:47 am

I am improving up on urilift for Indian market.

Erik January 19, 2007 at 11:01 am

Full-scale riot as a result from urination?

Barry M February 16, 2007 at 6:10 pm

I just saw a news report from Victoria on the pissing in the street problem …

It may be noted that I didn’t even pay $75,000 for my house … and it has 2 bathrooms !!!

“Happy with a pot to piss in … nb.ca”