‘Hacktivist’ Poses Dilemma for Strasbourg

The man who brought portable pedestrian crossings to France has created a delicate moment for Strasbourg council by publishing a map on how to pee in public in the city without being caught.

Want to cross the road? Just roll it out

Florian Rivière who calls himself an “urban hacktivist” first hit the headlines with a range of ideas for adapting everyday items of urban street furniture to other more citizen-friendly purposes. One of his most innovative was the personalised pedestrian crossing (see photo above).

This roll-up, zebra-crossing-design-carpet can be deployed — admittedly only by the brave, adventurous or foolhardy — in heavily trafficked urban areas. Because it is lightweight and portable it offers the potential for multiple reuse by truly committed pavement militants.

It will, Rivière claims, help pedestrians to reach sidewalk safety in some of France’s more high intensity traffic thoroughfares. (Users might be well advised to check the small print on their life insurance policies before use).

Editorial note: The law on how and where pedestrians may cross busy streets has been tightened in favour of pedestrians and motorists have been urged to redouble vigilance. It would appear that jaywalking has in some cases become borderline lawful since road code amendments were introduced in 2010. At the time of the change Le Figaro quoting motoring associations said: “The new measures have raised concerns among motoring organisations who claim drivers are increasingly finding themselves ‘persona non grata’ in urban centres. For many, the new provisions of the Highway Traffic Code are another blow to the motorist and further increase the omnipotence of pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre. Since Tuesday (November 16 2010), pedestrian rights have been strengthened. They can now cross a roadway wherever they see fit in the absence of a pedestrian crossing within 50 metres of the spot where they want to cross. If a pedestrian signals an intention to cross the road, motorists must now give way. The penalty for failing to do so is a 135 euro fine and four points on your license…”.

But back to Rivière’s controversial hacktivist map.

He has published all the details garnered from first hand experience on a handy Google map that identifies places in main streets around Strasbourg where he claims peeing is private and free —  in fact the fine for urinating in a public space is 35 euros.

Apparently Rivière is concerned about the lack of sufficient urinoirs (replaced all over France in recent decades by urban furniture supplied by JCDecaux the advert hoarding kings.

Partial view of the map causing a stir in Strasbourg

However his map (click here for the full  picture) has divided critics and supporters.  The more anarchical in the art world think he has done a service to the public, the law and order and neighbourhood-watch brigades are appalled.

The caption on his map says: “The Pirate Geographic Institute offers a Map of streets in downtown Strasbourg conducive to piddling with a modicum of privacy day and night. Long live the pipi street!”

The careful reader however might consider his map to be an elaborate joke. Take a close look for instance at the suggestive street names he has chosen to highlight as safe spots for the public nuisance lads: Impasse de la Bière  (Beer Deadend) or Impasse du Bain aux Plantes (Flower Bath Deadend) to name just two.

Florian Rivière founded  the “Democratie Creative” collective in 2008 and led it to  2012. It specialises in highly visible initiatives in the Strasbourg public space.

Here is a video clip of one of his less controversial hacks, giving Berlin kids a free carousel ride:

UPDATE: The BBC has this report on some of the more unusual uses for urine down the ages.

Jellyfish stings are commonly believed to be relieved by the application of urine.

17th Century diarist Samuel Pepys records the use of urine as a cosmestic treatment for women.

Scientists may have found a method of converting our pee into a source of renewable energy.

In the 16th Century, urine was used by some physicians as a disinfectant for the treatment of serious wounds.

Some horticulturists recommend the use of urine in the garden as a natural fertiliser – the nitrogen helps enrich compost.


Story: Ken Pottinger


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