At the City of Vancouver where Council meetings are turning out to be more of a cave spelunking expedition through the finer points of Robert’s Rules of Order, there’s been well meaning motions to consider alcohol in public places and parks. The point ably made is that in terms of equity, not everyone has their own back yard or outside space to drink a beer in during the pandemic. Of course lots of people are already ingeniously decanting and imbibing in parks and public spaces, it’s just not sanctioned. Yet.
Master of municipalities CBC’s Justin McElroy has a two minute video on the CBC twitter site mulling over the possibility of “you being able to crack open a cold one in a place like Dude Chilling Park”.
One main point missing in this idea of allowing individuals to carry their own alcoholic beverages to beaches, parks and city spaces. People drinking alcohol will need to use washroom facilities more frequently. Where are the washrooms?
I have written over several years about why we need to have accessible public washrooms because every member of the public needs to go. It seems odd that during the pandemic we should not be considering the universal installation of drinking fountain/water bottle stations, hand washing facilities, and of course, public washrooms before any provision regarding alcohol.
Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger is even blunter, saying that we have to stop building roads and start building bathrooms. He equates the lack of washrooms with that of the budget for highways: “Authorities say providing public washrooms can’t be done because it would cost “hundreds of millions” but never have a problem spending billions on the building of highways for the convenience of drivers who can drive from home to the mall where there are lots of washrooms. The comfort of people who walk, people who are old, people who are poor or sick — that doesn’t matter.”
Lloyd Alter points out that post pandemic washrooms that are touchless and sterilized will be important, and private companies, Starbucks and shopping stores are not responsible for providing them.
As Lloyd observes ” This was always a public responsibility, but got dropped in North America with the growth of the suburbs and the mall and the privatization of public space…The trouble is a dearth of civic responsibility. We don’t need just a better restroom. We need a better country.”
And what if public washrooms are not provided? Not providing those facilities restricts older people and children’s access to the outdoors and is especially hard on people with “lower incomes, essential workers and homeless.”
How is it that we rely on Starbucks and restaurants as places to use the washroom? How will that work as restrictions ease during the pandemic?