Posts filed under ‘Ideas!’
The Great British Public Toilet Map launched last Wednesday 19th November on World Toilet Day*
Previous versions of the map have existed since 2011, but this is now the largest publicly accessible toilet database in the UK by some way. It has over 9500 toilets, and I’d be confident of saying that the map will help you to find toilets no matter where you live.
If for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t, you can add, edit and remove toilets until it does! We’ve had over 1000 toilets added this week.
There are also a tiny minority of locations where the data has gone a bit loopy with duplicate loos or inaccurate locations. Don’t be shy about removing those that you think are wrong, or telling us at email@example.com about parts of the country that may need a little attention. You’ll be doing us a huge favour.
*As well as World Toilet Day, it was also GIS Day (Geographic Information System). They might as well name it Toilet Map Day.
Age UK have launched a campaign called Change One Thing where they support local older people’s groups to improve their neighbourhood.
Their campaign manager Mary Milne got in touch since naturally the subject of public toilets is coming up quite a lot! Over lunch with my Supervisor Jo-Anne Bichard we got onto the subject of Community Toilet Schemes: Do they work?
- Some people do not feel comfortable using pubs
- A Community Toilet Scheme cannot replace 24Hr provision
- Participants must cover a range of opening hours
- It should include disabled access toilets, baby-changing, family toilets, and if possible, a Changing Places facility
- A scheme by itself will not work in places with high tourism or events, where many people will arrive at once.
- The schemes won’t work in places without enough businesses, e.g. parks!
- You need to assess whether people are using the scheme and each of the different participants, else it’s a waste of money!
This last one bothers me quite a lot; enough to have written a post about it back in October.
How do you get the right participants?
Idea #9 is in line with some of my ramblings yesterday on taking a people-centred design approach to public services (and eventually building the Big Society).
So you’ve decided to close your public toilets (approximate saving £18000).
But it’s OK because along with the public library, you’ve found 2 pubs and a café who don’t mind the general public using their loos instead, in exchange for hard cash (approximate expense 3 x £600 = £1800).
What’s not to love?
One problem is communication. Everyone who’s visited the town knows that the big ugly block in the main square is the public toilet, not least from the smell.
How will they know that they can use these businesses instead? And where they are?
As mentioned in Idea#7: What Community Toilet Scheme? there are 3 solutions: signs, maps and open data (the open data is so that others can make their own maps).
Idea#7 looked at signs.
Idea #8 looks at maps.
It’s a bit… flawed.
Another day, and another council announces it might close some public toilets and pay businesses to let the public use theirs instead (Tendring Council, in case you’re keeping score).
Not necessarily a bad thing. 10 public toilets can become 100 community toilets for the same price. But whilst public toilets are visible in the street, recognisable, and permanent; community toilets are hidden within businesses, not well understood by the public, and the participants frequently change.
So how do you communicate a Community Toilet Scheme?
There’s the slightly inadequate sticker in the window, which you have to know to look for and which some shops are reluctant to display.
***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.
I just did this for a presentation and figured I may as well put it on the blog. I’d half abandoned the ‘simple ideas’ aspect of this blog before I really began (I like to think that I’ve been working instead on much bigger fish) but I’ll try and add things that I do draw up as I go along.
After all, there really isn’t a ground-breaking idea that will solve all the problems of public toilets, but rather a lot of little improvements (that amount to little more than common sense!)
What are we looking at? The little public toilet symbols show which stops have public toilets (totally made up, by the way).
I spent yesterday at an Incontinence Conference, as you do, attended by many people from the Brunel Older Peoples’ Reference Group. They were quite frustrated by the lack of public toilet provision at transport hubs, in particular bus stations.
“Us older people, we travel by bus! We’ve got our bus pass but there’s no where to go to the toilet when we get there!”
(I paraphrase, but that was the gist.)
Would it be worth having information on bus timetables and bus stops that shows which stops are served by a public toilet?
Of course this assumes that there are some!
And as bus routes cross several local authorities, some data wouldn’t hurt either.
Here’s an idea that’s so obvious I think ‘idea’ might be stretching it.
The cubicle on the left is ‘normal’. The cubicle on the right has the toilet off-centre, positioned between the wall and sanitary bin.
I’ve never understood why the ladies’ toilets aren’t like this.
The best case result is a sanitary bin on one side, resulting in disgruntled women having to brush up against it. (The worst case is when it doesn’t even fit in the gap, so it’s behind the door and you can’t get in, McDonalds Clapham Junction, hmm?)
Now there’s always going to be a sanitary bin in every ladies cubicle, so why not design with that in mind?
Sometimes people have – these are the toilets where it’s built into the wall, creating far more space in the cubicle and a toilet utopia. Others may have the foresight to source the bins before building the walls or partitions to make sure they fit.
But even if they do fit, wouldn’t it still be better to reposition the toilet so that it’s central within the space that’s left?
(Incidentally this rule can be applied to huge toilet roll holders too)
Or am I missing something here?
Vote below! And don’t even think about voting no without telling me why in the comments!