Archive for January, 2011
For those that don’t know: when you have a WordPress blog you’re told the Google search terms that led someone here.
For example, today I’ve had:
- children toilet layout
- charging for public conveniences
- queue for ladies loo
- eu law and charging to use mens urinals
- london map toilet
- using public toilets
- sanitary bins for lady’s toilets
These have begun to make me feel guilty.
You’ll never find what you’re looking for in a rambling blog, and yet generally I either think I could help, or know someone or something else that could.
So click here for a link to a range of publications and websites etc. that covers:
- Community Toilet Schemes
- Building Regulations
- British Standards
- Government & Academic Research
- Further Reading
Hope it helps!
Alternatively email me at email@example.com.
Any question answered! Even if I don’t know…
In December and January I contacted the most open data friendly councils to ask them of the possibility of adding open data on public toilets.
An ‘Open Data Friendly Council’ was determined by OpenlyLocal.com’s UK Councils Open Data Scoreboard, which at the time stood at about 40 ‘truly open’ councils (although I skipped the County Councils (not responsible for toilets) and a couple others (data newbies))
As fun as it is to intersperse the committee meeting’s minutes with my own comments, I think it would be more helpful if I write (and perhaps send to them, once I’ve made it less anecdotal and ranty) some conclusions and advice in response to the Health & Public Services Committee who are reviewing London’s public toilets.
These recommendations relate to Open London & Community Toilet Schemes. The committee didn’t really cover toilet maps in their discussions, so the comments on this subject that our Research Project submitted as part of the GLA’s Call for Evidence (pdf) still stand.
Open London and Community Toilet Schemes
It’s tempting to think of the Mayor’s Open London scheme as a Community Toilet Scheme for Central London.
In reality, there are clear distinctions between the two.
- Open London covers all of Greater London; Community Toilet Schemes are run by a Borough and cover all or part of a Borough.
- Open London works in partnership with national businesses and retailers, through their Head Office; Community Toilet Schemes work with small businesses and franchises, through Store Managers.
- Open London does not pay businesses a grant to allow non-customers to use their toilets; Community Toilet Schemes do.
- Open London covers businesses who’s toilets you’d use anyway, generally, without asking; Community Toilet Schemes, generally, do not.
The participants of Open London, according to the website, are ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Borders (ahem), John Lewis, and Viyella and Austin Reed (both Regent Street only).
Point 1: Which stores have toilets?
The last two are interesting, as it makes you think ‘Oh! I didn’t know these shops had toilets’. The rest; Supermarkets, Department Stores, and M&S; we’d all use anyway, regardless of whether they’re on the scheme.
In 2006 the Greater London Authority (GLA) had an investigation into The State of London’s Public Toilets (pdf).
4 years later the Health & Public Services Committee are holding a review.
As part of our research project Out-of-Order we responded to their call for evidence into changes since 2006. You can download our response here. It’s a cracker. (a cracker that takes a moment to load. Like, 10 seconds. It’s worth it, trust me)
Yesterday (12th January) the Committee met to discuss current provision with a range of guests. I watched it this morning via the webcast, got far too into it, and started taking minutes.
It goes on a bit too long for a blog post, so check it out via this link to an entirely paraphrased version of the committee meeting, which includes, as it goes along, my comments and answers to their rhetorical questions.
No really, do.
It was interesting, if personally a bit disappointing. But there are some seeds of ideas and I’m sure (well I’m not, but I’m hopeful) that the GLA will do lots more good things to follow on from this.
In my endeavors to get open data on public toilets in existence for the benefit of, erm, everyone, I regularly consider the potential of OpenStreetMap.
For anyone who doesn’t know, (and for those that do, feel free to skip my ill-informed explanation..) OpenStreetMap is a map of the country that’s created by members of the public. This began because Ordinance Survey data (along with other maps like those used by Google and SatNavs) was private and expensive and couldn’t be enhanced (or in some cases corrected) by you or me.
They created it by walking around with their personal GPS systems, logging data and adding it to the online map. It struck me as remarkably geeky, not to mention slow progress. Yet when I learnt about it in 2007 due to my MA Industrial Design Engineering project (self-promotion), a skeleton map of Britain was emerging.
Now they seem to be using satellite images provided by Yahoo as well, meaning people no longer have to have a GPS and traipse the streets. Instead you can just go online, log-in, and trace, colour and label the satellite images, thus creating a map. Consequently a huge leap forward has been made in the last few years – it’s looking pretty complete and I’m starting to see it used on websites instead of Google Maps. I’m sure you have to, perhaps without realising it.
… and Public Toilets
One of the things that can be added to the map is a public toilet. The map above, centered on London Bridge, has a few examples (you can click on it then zoom in via the next window. I couldn’t get the map to embed directly). As I’m not remotely proficient in OpenStreetMap it’s hard for me to analyse the quality of this data. I’ve no doubt these toilets exist and are accurately located as that’s the entire ethos of the project.
***The GREAT BRITISH PUBLIC TOILET MAP is now a real website at http://greatbritishpublictoiletmap.rca.ac.uk***
Where are the toilets?Public toilet provision is incredibly fragmented down to approximately 326 district or borough councils. A complete dataset requires the participation of all of these local authorities in a subject that is often overlooked but which is basic to society; so basic that many open data websites have suggestions for toilet-finder apps, without knowing that there’s no national data. These apps (and other maps) would be useful to everyone, but for many people with specific medical conditions this information is essential to their quality of life.
Currently, the only reliable way to find public toilet information is to visit each council website, which is only practical for residents, much less so for visitors, and without a smartphone this information isn’t available at the time you’d want it most – when out and about.
The Great British Public Toilet Map gives a national focus to a local problem. The site is based around a map-search. When the public search for a location they’ll receive one of two responses – either information on the nearby toilets if the council provides open toilet data, or a page suggesting how they can contact their local council to request that they participate in the project by releasing open data. A sample letter would be provided explaining the issues.
The idea behind the map is that it shows a useful tangible output to the mysterious world of data. Essentially the site is a campaign tool to enable individuals to engage with their local councils on public toilets.
(An automatically generated blog post by WordPress.com)
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 21 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 29 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 16mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.
The busiest day of the year was October 4th with 118 views. The most popular post that day was My (in)experience with Open Data.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, facebook.com, guardian.co.uk, streetbook.com, and psd.tiddlyspace.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for community toilet scheme, plan for small public w c, public toilet-plan, unisex toilets, and dirty sanitary bin tampon.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
My (in)experience with Open Data October 2010
About September 2010
… Planning November 2010
… the Queue for the Ladies October 2010
… Council Websites November 2010