The Spanish capital is home to well over three million people, yet only has 25 public toilets, forcing people to relieve themselves all over the city's streets.
Ever wandered around Madrid’s streets on an evening and been greeted with an unpleasant whiff of urine?
That could be down to the fact that the Spanish capital has only 25
public toilets to serve a permanent population of over three million and
around 10 million visitors a year.
There are four permanent toilets in Retiro Park that open until 9pm and
a mere 25 mobile bathroom cabins that people can use for 10 cents.
Demand far outstrips supply; when the bars and clubs close, the wave of
people filtering out onto the street means that most - usually men -
end up relieving themselves against walls and in street corners, lending
the city an unsavoury stench in the early hours.
Esteban Benito, president of the Residents Association of Chueca, one
of the busiest neighbourhoods of central Madrid said that the issue of
the city’s lack of toilets needs to be tackled urgently.
"We completely condemn the hygiene situation in Madrid," he told The Local.
"One key element of the problem is urinating in public. We are talking
about an absolute crisis of civility on the part of a huge number of
citizens who decide to urinate in the street," he said.
"It appears that in the majority of cases, people just have no manners
and can’t be bothered finding an alternative place to go to the toilet,
which brings us to the issue of public toilets, which are notable by
their absence in Madrid, especially in Chueca, where we have none."
Benito believes it is up to the city’s council to sort out the situation:
"The council needs to find solutions urgently to the general hygiene
and cleanliness problem in the city and in particular to the problem of
people urinating in the street.
"We know it’s complicated but they need to do so with no more hesitation.
"It is also surprising that neither the current nor previous council have applied the municipal by-laws," he added.
Urinating in the street is a public offence in Spain; article 14 of the public hygiene by-law states that:
"For its particular impact on the atmosphere and hygiene of the city,
it is prohibited to spit or relieve yourself in a public space."
People caught urinating in public could face fines of between €751
($832) and €1500 but local police confirmed to El País that such
sanctions are rarely imposed.
Madrid is seriously lacking in the public toilet department compared to some of its European counterparts.
Parisians can make use of 400 permanent public toilets, all with
disabled access and a special cleaning system that cleans the toilet
after each use, making sure the loo is spotless for each new user.
Madrid's 25 toilets are cylindrical and automatic: you can only enter
upon putting 10 cents in its slot. One perk of being a bus driver in
Madrid is that you get a special card which allows you free access to
the city’s public toilets - you just have to hope you are near one of
the scarce lavatories when nature calls.
While bus drivers get free use of the city’s facilities, taxi drivers
do not, and have petitioned the city council to install toilets in
certain central areas close to taxi ranks.
Another area where public loos are non-existent is in the metro; there
are only staff toilets and none available to the public.
For tourists visiting Madrid, commenters on the popular travel forum
TripAdvisor suggest going into a bar if nature calls, ordering a coffee
and using their facilities.
For those who do not fancy a drink or have no money, TripAdvisor user
greeters2014 says: "the cleanest are in museums, art galleries and