Blogger Stephen Harrison of Needs More Spikes calculated Victoria residents urinate approximately 128,688 litres a day. (Needs More Spikes graph)

Blogger Stephen Harrison of Needs More Spikes calculated Victoria residents urinate approximately 128,688 litres a day. (Needs More Spikes graph)

World Toilet Day floats some serious health issues

Needs More Spikes blog finds 136 people are currently peeing in Vancouver Island city

Talking about toilets may seem like poor manners, but World Toilet Day seeks to address an important health issue that affects people around the globe.

Nov. 19 brings awareness to the lack of access to safe toilets. Supported by UN Water, World Health Organization and other international non-profits, a 2017 study shows 4.5 billion people live without safe, sanitary toilets. This can lead to contamination of soil and waterways, a safety and health hazard UN Water wants to eliminate by 2030.

But it’s not just developing countries plagued by the need to pee.

READ and WATCH MORE: How accessible are Victoria’s public washrooms?

Stephen Harrison, the blogger behind Needs More Spikes, examines defensive architecture in Victoria.

“There are lots of different things that are supposed to go unseen by most people. I wanted to document how the city has been built to limit use of public space by certain groups of people, in particular, homeless and poor people,” Harrison said. He points to examples of customer-only washroom signs in businesses throughout the city, and city council’s decision last spring to close Reeson and Quadra parks to overnight camping because they did not have washroom facilities (instead of adding facilities, Harrison notes).

On Nov. 8, he posted a blog that finds 136 people are peeing in Victoria right now. Harrison calculated the number by comparing the city’s population with the average amount, time and frequency people urinate in an average day. The stat, he said, was a way to highlight the daily need faced by everyone and inspire a larger discussion.

READ MORE: Mustard Seed rolls in record-breaking toilet paper numbers

“It’s not like washroom options are plentiful,” he said. “They’re scattered around, they’re not always available, some of them are locked. Lots of them lack amenities like soap and mirrors.”

Of the 22 public city-funded washrooms in Victoria, only three — at Langley Street, Centennial Square and Pandora Street — are available around the clock. One of them is a male-only urinal that can’t be accessed with a wheelchair or walker.

Harrison’s post was inspired by a washroom in the Atrium building on Blanshard that, while in a private business, used to be easily accessible with gender-neutral facilities. Then a “customers only” sign appeared, and patrons had to ask for a key from security or staff to use them. Such signs and how they’re enforced can create a barrier, he said, especially to homeless people or those who appear poor.

“Accessibility or amenities or general availability of washrooms are not plentiful, depending on who you are and the city or private businesses are treating you,” Harrison said.

One of the reasons businesses may enforce a customer-only rule, Harrison said, is because of the fear of drug use in their washrooms.

“I totally get that a barista or other staff might not want to respond as defacto-first responders, but for any business operating here, the community they’re serving includes people who use drugs,” he said. “If businesses are troubled by people using drugs in their washrooms, then perhaps they should be fighting the stigma around drug-use and fighting for things like decriminalization. Whereas locking bathroom doors is contributing to stigma…which pushes people away and could do real harm.”

After he wrote his washrooms post, Harrison said a friend pointed out that homeless people often drink fewer fluids when they know they don’t have regular access to toilets. That can create another kind of health issue.

READ MORE: Interest in park growing by the toilet paper roll


@KeiliBartlett
keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The male-only urinal on Pandora and Government Street is too narrow to be easily accessed by a wheelchair user. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

The male-only urinal on Pandora and Government Street is too narrow to be easily accessed by a wheelchair user. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Just Posted

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Gitxsan Nation extends fishing ban for non-Indigenous permit holders indefinitely . (Photo courtesy, Travis Murphy)
Gitxsan Nation extends ban for non-Indigenous fishing permit holders across their territory

The move comes after the province backed away from ongoing discussions with Gitxsan chiefs and DFO

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in B.C.

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read