Bonn. No one likes them, but everyone needs them. A strategy for toilets is currently being developed in Bonn. Many were closed in recent years on cost grounds. Those remaining have problems, including from the drugs scene.
There are now only six public toilets in Bonn. The city closed most of the former 27 toilets in August 2003, mainly for cost reasons. In Ramersdorf and in the Marktgarage, drug crimes and attacks on women were the reason. Each year, the treasurer had to spend more than 400,000 Euros on cleaning, electricity, water and repairs. At the moment, it is still 140,000 Euros. The closure of the toilet at the main train station due to the construction has alone saved almost 170,000 Euros. These amounts mean it is impossible to make money. At Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz and Moltkeplatz, only 3000 Euros a year are received in payments. Each visit to the toilet there costs 50 cents. The price for installation alone was more than 200,000 Euros ten years ago. “The cost therefore far exceeds the income,” says deputy city spokesperson Marc Hoffmann.
Since the recent ruling by the Higher Regional Court in Münster, municipalities are no longer obliged to provide free public toilets. Bonn sees things differently. “Public toilets in areas with lots of visitors are an important facility in a city the size of Bonn,” says Hoffmann. Whether their use is free or for a fee needs to be decided on an individual basis depending on the location, condition of the toilet and other factors. “No change in this practice is currently foreseen.”
Citizens complain about conditions in public toilets
There has been a motion from the citizens’ group “Bonn packt’s an” asking the city to award concessions for additional public toilets, which could be operated by third parties. The council agreed to an internal administrative review at the end of 2016. Since then, a strategy is being developed, which is expected to be presented this year. “It’s all about offering tourists and visitors to the city better services in the city centre,” explains Hoffmann. It is unclear how this could look.
If you ask people on the street, the strategy is urgently needed. In principle, there are too few public toilets but the problem appears to be completely different. No one likes using the toilets. “It stinks and is filthy. They are pure bacteria incubators. You don’t know what you’ll catch,” explains an elderly lady, who often sits in front of a café on Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz. A glance inside gives an idea of the goings-on. Cigarette ash lies on the ledge on front of the mirror, a used condom on the floor. This time it smells of cannabis and not only of urine. “When I need the toilet, I often ask in shops or restaurants,” says the lady.
But what if there is no shop nearby? “Then you have no choice,” says Mohammed Azizi. He runs the kiosk at Duisdorf Station in Ladenstraße, where there are free public toilets. Like the others, they are thoroughly cleaned each day. Like the others they are – in Azizi’s words – “filthy” within a few hours. And there are continually problems with drugs. A man reports that a few weeks ago a woman came out of the disabled toilet covered in blood after putting a syringe in her upper arm. “I’d rather go behind a bush. But that’s hard for women.”
Neither the city nor the citizens’ association has a solution for how to make public toilets more attractive. However, it would be quite simple. “The toilet is not disgusting. It’s disgusting what people do with it,” says kiosk owner Azizi.
Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach. Translation: kc